Join DOT’s Inclusive Design Challenge

PAVE Campaign
Published in
4 min readSep 8, 2020


PAVE is holding a webinar for anyone interested in the Inclusive Design Challenge on Tuesday, September 22 at 2pm Eastern, 11 am Pacific. The event features a presentation on the Inclusive Design Challenge from USDOT, and speakers on inclusive design and accessibility technology from academia, OEMs, nonprofits and government. Register here.

Of the many potential benefits that autonomous drive technology could provide to society, one of the most underappreciated is its ability to provide mobility and (perhaps more importantly) personal autonomy to people with disabilities. Unless you have personal experience with a mobility-limiting disability, or know someone who does, the chances are that you’ve never even thought about what it’s like to try to get around without driving yourself.

That’s because the struggles of people who are poorly served by our current car-centric mobility system are largely invisible, due to the very nature of the problem: because people with disabilities lack mobility options, you simply don’t see them as much. The problem is compounded by the fact that a lack of mobility holds many disabled people back from employment, which in turns makes the problem harder to solve through pure market forces alone.

Autonomous vehicles offer the potential to fundamentally change the mobility landscape for people who can’t drive, but like every potential social benefit of every emerging technology, we need to make the effort to ensure that this promise is actually delivered on. That’s why PAVE is proud to support the US Department of Transportation’s Inclusive Design Challenge, a $5 million contest to develop accessible design solutions for the next generation of automated vehicles.

First introduced at last year’s Access and Mobility for All Summit, the Inclusive Design Challenge seeks proposals for innovative solutions to a variety of obstacles to the use of AVs by people with physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities. Designs may include both hardware and software, and should address one or more of the following barriers:

  • Locating an Automated Driving System-dedicated vehicle (ADS-DV)
  • Entering an ADS-DV
  • Securing passengers and mobility equipment
  • Inputting information
  • Interacting with the ADS in routine and emergency situations
  • Exiting an ADS-DV

All of the details of this exciting competition can be found here, but the most important thing to know is that initial proposals need to be completed by October 30th, 2020. That’s not a lot of time, but the good news is that the Stage I submission should be relatively easy to put together: it’s simply a 10 page concept paper describing your proposed solution, how it will meet the challenge’s objective, how it will improve safety and user experience, its production feasibility and a plan/schedule for Phase II implementation. Then you just need to submit that document here by October 30.

Your Phase I proposal will be judged on criteria described in the official rules, encompassing technical merit, production feasibility and impact/benefit. If your proposal is one of 10 semifinalists selected by DOT’s judging panel, you will receive $300,000 with which to build out your Phase II prototype. This can be a full-size physical prototype, a software prototype, a scale physical prototype or a virtual prototype.

During phase II, you will participate in design charrettes with experts from industry and the disabled community, after which you will be invited to Washington, DC, to demonstrate your prototype. Afterwards, DOT’s judging panel will select up to three winners to whom they will distribute the remaining $2 million. If your proposal takes first place, you’ll win $1 million, second place takes $700,000 and third place gets $300,000.

DOT has a number of resources in place for anyone considering participating in this challenge. Here are a few of the most important:

The Challenge landing page, with links to everything you need to know.

The complete rules and terms of the Challenge. Be sure to read these very thoroughly!

Resources for proposing teams, including research on user needs, the potential of AVs to address these needs and design considerations. If you’re not sure where to start, read up here.

An Open Forum, where people and organizations interested in either proposing on the Challenge, mentoring/advising teams, or otherwise getting involved in this amazing program can connect with others, share ideas, offer assistance, and more.

If you have any challenge-related inquiries not answered by these resources, please contact the Challenge staff at

PAVE encourages its members and everyone in the AV space to participate in the Inclusive Design Challenge however you can, whether that’s creating a team and submission, offering advice and mentoring, or simply spreading awareness of the effort. We also encourage the media to cover the Inclusive Design Challenge, ideally as soon as possible to drive participation before the deadline, but also throughout the competition.

DOT has also created a media toolkit for the Inclusive Design Challenge, which you can find here.

PAVE thanks DOT for creating this opportunity for industry, startups and academia to earn money while developing technologies and designs that will make the autonomous future as accessible and inclusive as we know it can be. There’s never been a better way to build cross-disciplinary teams, cultivate relationships with the disabled community and highlight your commitment to driving broad social benefits through automated vehicle technology… all while potentially earning more than a million dollars with which to turn your invention into a true innovation.

PAVE will continue to highlight the Inclusive Design Challenge as part of its commitment to educating the public about the massive opportunities for social good that this technology creates. Stay tuned for more information about this and other ways that AV technology can go beyond simply providing mobility and deliver real personal autonomy to those who struggle with it every day.



PAVE Campaign

PAVE is a coalition of industry, nonprofit and academic institutions with one goal: To inform the public about automated vehicles and their potential.