The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide) was awarded an $187,000 Michigan Mobility grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) as part of their Michigan Mobility Challenge grant initiative. The initiative uses technology and innovation to address mobility gaps for seniors, persons with disabilities, and veterans in Michigan. The grant will allow TheRide to pilot a program for virtually autonomous wheelchair securements requiring minimal assistance.

TheRide is partnering with the Center for Independent Living, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, and Q’Straint, to test virtually autonomous securement of wheelchairs on 10 of its buses. The systems are scheduled to be installed into the buses by January 2019.

“This next generation safety feature can allow individuals with mobility devices to secure themselves in under 25 seconds with the push of a button,” said Julia Roberts, planning and innovation project lead at TheRide. “Innovative transportation solutions like this could significantly improve independence for people with wheelchairs, reduce overall passenger boarding time, improve on-time performance, and create a better customer experience with greater service reliability across the transit network. Piloting autonomous applications on these vehicles help drive movement toward our mobility future.”

In addition to providing more independence for individuals with disabilities, the virtually autonomous wheelchair securements provide greater protection of the individual’s head and neck, reduces boarding time, and allow for less maintenance needed on the vehicle. TheRide’s motorcoach operators (MCOs) will be educated on the pilot program to help answer rider questions.

TheRide is also proud to be supporting Feonix — Mobility Rising’s proposal to use technology and training to enhance the transit experience for people with hearing and visual impairments. The project team, led by Executive Director Valerie LeFleur, will use it’s funding to implement technology solutions to assist individuals with auditory and sight challenges in locating bus stops and final destinations.

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