Research & Discoveries (R&D): “Economic Impacts of Removing Transportation Barriers to Employment for Individuals with Disabilities Through AV Adoption” From National Disability Institute

In addition to the research to build autonomous vehicles (AVs), academics and experts around the world are studying how AVs can improve safety, enhance mobility, and create new economic opportunities, among other transformative benefits. AVIA’s Research & Discoveries (R&D) Series highlights these reports’ findings about how AVs can create a safer and more mobile world.    

Need To Know (NTK): Autonomous Vehicles Can Increase Employment for People With Disabilities While Strengthening The Broader Economy 

The National Disability Institute (NDI) released a new study examining how AVs can expand reliable transportation options for people with disabilities, giving them greater “access to medicine and healthcare, quality of life and mental wellbeing.”

People with disabilities are significantly underrepresented in the U.S. workforce. One of the critical barriers to entering the workforce is adequate transportation access. According to the study, “Individuals with disabilities have a significantly lower workforce participation rate compared to their non-disabled peers (21% vs. 67%) and have nearly double the unemployment rate (10.1% vs 5.1%).” 

The study emphasizes how AVs will provide more opportunities for people with disabilities to gain employment, which can then have significant impacts across the U.S. economy - from increasing employment and individual income to growing the GDP and federal tax revenue. Benefits of AV adoption include: 

NDI also convened a series of interviews to demonstrate how providing equal access to transportation via AV adoption would improve the livelihood of people with disabilities. Five specific themes emerged as a result of the interviews:

“Interviewees overwhelmingly believed AVs would offer them an increase in (1) employment opportunities, (2) entrepreneurship and small business success, (3) personal safety, (4) independence, and (5) health access, with 87% of interviewees saying they would recommend AVs to friends, family members, or colleagues if they became available in their hometown tomorrow.”

Swift And Effective Policy Developments Are Essential To AV Adoption 

What will it take for AVs to make this difference for the disability community and the American economy? The study articulates the need for supplemental legislative support at the national and state levels to permit AV testing and deployment. NDI argues that “lifting the federal cap on the number of exempted AVs that can be manufactured would be one efficient way to allow the industry to scale.” 


The study concludes that “the promise of AVs offers a potential transportation solution for many people with disabilities” and could strengthen the broader economy.