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Request for Information (RFI) for the Inclusive Design Challenge

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Request for Information (RFI) for the Inclusive Design Challenge

Finch Fulton
U.S. Department of Transportation
7 January 2020

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 4 (Tuesday, January 7, 2020)]
[Pages 783-785]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-00009]



[Docket Number DOT-OST-2019-0187]

Request for Information (RFI) for the Inclusive Design Challenge

AGENCY: Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST), Department of 

ACTION: Request for information (RFI).


SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of the 
Secretary of Transportation (OST) is seeking feedback on a proposed 
inclusive design challenge (Challenge) via this Request for Information 
(RFI). The Challenge is intended to incentivize creation of innovative, 
inclusive design solutions to enable access to automated vehicles (AV), 
also known as Highly automated Vehicles (HAV), for persons with 
disabilities. The Challenge seeks to emphasize the opportunities and 
challenges introduced by AVs which human occupants are not expected to 
drive, nor supervise the driving functions of the automated system, or 
perform any other element of the dynamic driving task as long as the 
vehicle remains within its operational design domain.
    The Challenge will solicit solutions addressing obstacles faced by 
persons with physical, sensory, and/or cognitive disabilities. The goal 
of the Challenge is to inspire inclusive designs as AVs are developed, 
which may also increase access to conventional vehicles today. 
Solutions proposed should aim to decrease the need to modify Level 4 
and 5 AVs post-production, or to reduce the cost of retrofitting AVs 
for use by persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users.

DATES:  Responses to the RFI must be received by January 31, 2020, no 
later than 5:00 p.m. (ET).

ADDRESSES: Written comments may be submitted using any one of the 
following methods:
     Electronic mail: Email comments to 
inclusivedesign@dot.gov. Responses must be provided as attachments to 
an email. It is recommended that attachments with file sizes exceeding 
25MB be compressed (i.e., zipped) to ensure message delivery. Responses 
must be provided as a Microsoft Word (.docx) attachment to the email, 
and be no more than 5 pages in length, with 12-point font and 1-inch 
     Internet: To submit comments electronically, go to the 
Federal regulations website at http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the 
online instructions for submitting comments.
    Respondents may answer as many or as few questions as they wish.
    DOT will not respond to individual submissions or publish publicly 
a compendium of responses. A response to this RFI will not be viewed as 
a binding commitment to develop or pursue the project or ideas 
    Respondents are requested to provide the following information at 
the beginning of their response to this RFI:

 Company/institution name
 Company/institution contact
 Contact's address, phone number, and email address

inclusivedesign@dot.gov. You may also contact David Carter, Office of 
the Under Secretary, OST (202-366-4813). You may send email to Mr. 
Carter at david.carter@dot.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The purpose of this RFI is to solicit 
feedback from academia, research laboratories, industry, government 
agencies, and other stakeholders on the scope and ideal outcomes of the 
Challenge. DOT is interested specifically in information on how best to 
structure a multi[hyphen]phase prize competition to attract novel 
systems that use design solutions to enhance accessibility in AVs.


    DOT is eager to realize the potential mobility benefits that AVs 
could bring to persons with disabilities. However, DOT also recognizes 
that this is not an easy problem to solve and there is no single 
solution. The wide diversity of disabilities and resulting needs for 
inclusive vehicle designs increase the complexity of the engineering 
challenge. While some mobility services (e.g., transit vehicles and 
service, and other for-hire vehicles, such as taxis) currently 
incorporate some accessibility features, few such features have been 
universally included in passenger vehicles. Existing solutions, 
particularly to enable access to and use of vehicles by wheelchair 
users, typically are added through aftermarket modifications, which can 
be expensive and cumbersome for persons with disabilities, rather than 
integrated as original equipment.
    Automated vehicles introduce new design opportunities, particularly 
to enable independent use by persons with physical, sensory, and/or 
cognitive disabilities. By using the challenge format, DOT seeks to 
draw attention to the topic of passenger vehicle accessibility; 
encourage new cross-disciplinary collaborations; incentivize the 
development of new approaches and technologies to help people move 
independently; and tap into the creativity and knowledge of the 
disability community, researchers, advocates, manufacturers, and 
    DOT aims to attract ideas from around the nation to identify new 
solutions for common access issues. The Challenge is expected to be 
open to individuals and teams (Designers) from the academic, research, 
and business communities, including but not limited to universities, 
research institutions, technology companies, and entrepreneurs. As with 
other government competitions, the Challenge aims to create a vibrant 
community of thinkers and doers who drive revolutionary innovation. As 
such, DOT encourages teams to organize themselves in a manner that best 
allows them to meet the Challenge. DOT expects teams to describe how 
they have engaged with stakeholders to understand the needs and 
constraints of both industry and travelers with disabilities when 
explaining the feasibility and impact of their design. DOT also 
encourages teams to identify representatives from both industry and the 
disability advocacy community to serve as advisors and to help inform 

[[Page 784]]

direction of their ideas based on their knowledge and expertise.

Challenge Features

    Through the Challenge, DOT seeks innovative ideas and design 
solutions to enable persons with disabilities to use AVs independently 
and ultimately to create a more accessible transportation future for 
all. Designers will compete for cash prizes by developing innovative 
design solutions to increase access to, and reduce the cost of building 
and/or modifying AVs for use by, persons with physical, sensory, and/or 
cognitive disabilities. Successful solutions will demonstrate 
consideration of production feasibility.
    DOT expects to consider the following factors in the Challenge in 
evaluating design solutions that aim to both propose future vehicle 
designs and create components in support of inclusive design features.
     Vehicle Platform: All design solutions should be targeted 
toward integration into light duty passenger vehicles. Solutions may 
address any vehicle manufacturing stage (aftermarket modification and 
     Vehicle Use: For the Challenge, design inclusiveness will 
be evaluated in part based on the extent to which proposed solutions 
enable each element of vehicle use, as outlined below. Designers will 
develop inclusive design solutions to address one or more of the 
following tasks that an AV user with a disability will need to complete 
    [cir] Locating an AV--Including, but not limited to, being notified 
that a vehicle has arrived; identifying the correct vehicle and 
locating and navigating to the correct vehicle.
    [cir] Entering an AV--Including, but not limited to, unlocking and 
opening vehicle door(s); deploying and stowing ramps or other equipment 
enabling access for wheelchair users or persons with other physical 
disabilities or mobility equipment; and closing vehicle door(s).
    [cir] Securing Passengers and Mobility Equipment--Including, but 
not limited to, securing seatbelts and other passenger restraints; 
securing wheelchairs or other mobility equipment to the vehicle; and 
securing service animals.
    [cir] Inputting Information--Including, but not limited to, 
confirming passenger identity; searching for, entering, and changing a 
desired destination; confirming the vehicle's destination; selecting a 
specific drop-off point (e.g., a particular entrance to a large complex 
or a location with a curb cut or sufficient space to deploy a ramp or 
other physical device).
    [cir] Interacting with the vehicle in routine and emergency 
situations--Including, but not limited to, operating passenger 
convenience and safety features (e.g., entertainment, window controls, 
locks, climate control); monitoring the vehicle's location and route 
progress; changing the vehicle's destination enroute; requesting 
assistance (emergency or non-emergency); understanding and performing 
appropriate actions in the event of a breakdown or crash.
    [cir] Exiting an AV--Including, but not limited to, being notified 
and confirming that a vehicle has reached its intended destination; 
releasing passenger and/or mobility equipment restraints; identifying 
and locating the safe and appropriate door(s) from which to exit the 
vehicle; recognizing when it is safe to exit a vehicle; opening door(s) 
and deploying and stowing ramps or other equipment enabling access for 
wheelchair users or persons with other physical disabilities or 
mobility equipment.
     Disability Types: For the Challenge, inclusiveness will be 
evaluated in part based on the extent to which proposed solutions 
address a range of disabilities and needs. Designers will also focus 
their efforts by designing solutions for use by one or more of the 
following audiences:

[cir] Persons with physical disabilities
[cir] Persons with sensory disabilities
[cir] Persons with cognitive disabilities

General Structure of the Prize

    The Challenge is expected to consist of two stages. Individuals/
teams will compete for an overall prize purse of up to $5,000,000. The 
prize purse is part of the $100 million provided in FY 2018 to the 
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for a HAV research and 
development program. In Stage I, up to 15 semi-finalists will receive 
$100,000 each for developing promising concepts. In Stage II up to four 
Stage I Designers will move on to be named finalists and receive a 
portion of the remaining prize purse, including a potential grand prize 
of $2,000,000.
     Stage I, Ideation: In Stage I, all eligible Designers will 
submit proposals for ideas to develop inclusive design solutions for 
AVs. Up to 15 semifinalists will be selected to advance to Stage II to 
develop a functional prototype of their idea and compete for a cash 
prize. If a selectee declines to participate in the next stage, an 
alternate may be selected.
     Stage II, Prototype/Demonstration: In Stage II, the semi-
finalists from Stage I will develop their concepts into functional 
prototypes (i.e., detailed system designs and prototypes to be 
demonstrated) for an inclusive design solution. DOT anticipates that 
partway through Stage II one or more design charrettes will be held 
subject matter experts from industry and the disability community. At 
the end of Stage II, teams will be invited to Washington, DC to 
demonstrate their prototypes. After this the final prize selections 
will be announced. A travel stipend will be provided to teams for 
travel to Washington, DC, for the charrette(s) and demonstration. Up to 
four finalists will be selected and awarded a portion of the remaining 
prize purse, contingent upon review of the Stage II submissions and 
demonstrations against the evaluation criteria.

Disclaimer and Important Notes

    This is solely an RFI and not a Notice of Funding Opportunity or 
the opening of a challenge competition. Therefore, DOT is not accepting 
applications at this time. DOT may issue a prize in the future based on 
or related to the content and responses to this RFI; however, DOT may 
also elect not to issue a prize. There is no guarantee that a prize 
will be issued as a result of this RFI. Responding to this RFI does not 
provide any advantage or disadvantage to potential applicants if DOT 
chooses to issue a prize regarding the subject matter. Final details, 
including the anticipated award size, quantity, and timing of DOT 
funded awards, will be at the discretion of the Secretary of 
    Any information obtained as a result of this RFI is intended to be 
used by the government on a non-attribution basis for planning and 
strategy development; this RFI does not constitute a formal 
solicitation for proposals or abstracts. Responses to this notice will 
be treated as information only. DOT will review and consider all 
responses in its formulation of program strategies for the identified 
materials of interest that are the subject of this request. DOT will 
not provide reimbursement for costs incurred in responding to this RFI. 
Respondents are advised that DOT is under no obligation to acknowledge 
receipt of the information received or provide feedback to respondents 
with respect to any information submitted under this RFI. Responses to 
this RFI do not bind DOT to any further actions related to this topic. 
DOT may use or disclose responses for any lawful purpose.

[[Page 785]]

Proprietary Information

    Because information received in response to this RFI may be used to 
structure future programs and/or otherwise be made available to the 
public, respondents are strongly advised to NOT include any information 
in their responses that might be considered business sensitive, 
proprietary, or otherwise confidential. However, respondents may choose 
to include such information in their submissions if they believe it 
will significantly assist DOT in the design of the Challenge.
    Responses containing confidential, proprietary, or privileged 
information must be conspicuously marked as described below. Failure to 
comply with these marking requirements may result in the disclosure of 
the unmarked information under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 
    If a response contains trade secrets or confidential commercial or 
financial information, the respondent must include a cover sheet 
identifying the specific pages containing that information. The cover 
sheet must also provide evidence that the respondent actually or 
customarily treats the information as private.
    In addition, the respondent must (1) mark the header and footer of 
every page that contains trade secrets or confidential commercial or 
financial information with ``Contains Confidential Information Exempt 
from Public Disclosure'' and (2) identify every line and paragraph 
containing such information with double brackets or highlighting.

Evaluation and Administration by Federal and Non-Federal Personnel

    Federal employees are subject to criminal prosecution for the 
unauthorized disclosure of appropriately and properly marked 
confidential information under 18 U.S.C. 1905. The government may seek 
the advice of qualified non-federal personnel and use non-federal 
personnel to conduct routine, nondiscretionary administrative 
activities. Submissions may be reviewed by support contractors and 
private consultants. By submitting your response, the respondent 
consent to DOT providing it to non-federal parties. Non-federal parties 
will be obliged to maintain the confidentiality of any submissions 
prior to being given access to those submissions.

Request for Information

Category 1: Challenge Topic and Design

    1. The Challenge could address elements of independently using a 
passenger vehicle, as described above. Are crucial elements missing? If 
so, please describe the missing element(s) and discuss how they create 
challenges for independent travel.
    2. Is there benefit to including an option for the development of a 
full concept design for inclusive vehicles (i.e., in reimagining the 
vehicle design)? If so, please explain why and describe what 
requirements should be considered as part of this concept proposal.
    3. How can proposals account for uncertainty in the development 
path of automated vehicles while still demonstrating novel and 
realistic concepts for inclusive design?
    4. Stakeholder engagement is an important aspect of the Inclusive 
Design Challenge. In what ways should DOT continue stakeholder 
engagement throughout the project to support teams in receiving 
valuable feedback on their designs (e.g., expert panels, public 
webinars that solicit feedback etc.)?
    5. Are Stage I awards sufficient for enabling the development of a 
prototype for Stage II?
    6. Do the proposed Challenge background, purpose, and challenge 
features sections above provide sufficient information to inform 
proposals? If not, what additional information would be helpful?

Category 2: Evaluation

    1. How can DOT evaluate proposals on the basis of:
    a. Inclusiveness?
    b. Production feasibility?
    c. Expected user experience?
    2. What evaluation criteria are most important when considering how 
proposals can best enable access to AVs for persons with disabilities:

a. Description of how the proposed solution contributes to independent 
b. Demonstration of a realistic understanding of users and their unique 
c. Demonstration of the engineering needs and explaining how the team 
arrived at that determination of need
d. Determination of the potential cost and manufacturability
e. Thorough description of the user experience when the technology is 
f. Consideration of the human-machine interface needs both inside and 
outside of the vehicle
g. Consideration of a range of needs and limitations, including users 
in a range of geographic contexts, income brackets, and with and 
without access to a smartphone or bank account
h. Other criteria

    3. How would evaluation criteria be different if there were two 
types of proposals being considered (such as components and full 


1. Dynamic Driving Task and Operational Design Domain are both 
defined by SAE International in standard J3016: Taxonomy and 
Definitions for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-
Road Motor Vehicles (https://www.sae.org/standards/content/j3016_201806/)
2. See SAE International standard J3016: Taxonomy and Definitions 
for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-Road Motor 
Vehicles for definitions of driving automation levels (https://www.sae.org/standards/content/j3016_201806/)

Finch Fulton,
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy.
[FR Doc. 2020-00009 Filed 1-6-20; 8:45 am]

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