Solji Lee

Thesis

Universal Access to Autonomous Taxi

Abstract

According to the rapid progression of self-driving technologies, self-driving taxis are expected to be commercialized and narrow the social and economic isolation of people with disabilities by offering a new means of personal transportation. However, there is a lack of interest and research on increasing informational and physical accessibility so that self-driving taxis can widely be used as transportation for people with disabilities. This paper presents eight universal access principles (four principles each in two layers: digital and physical) and detailed examples describing the principles. The eight principles build on (1) existing literature studies mainly based on the prominent universal design principles from NC State University, and (2) robot-taxi journey analysis of users with three types of disabilities (wheelchair users, blindness, and limblessness). Moreover, I have repeatedly verified and co-designed examples of the eight principles through interviews with people with disabilities. This thesis facilitates discussion of how much universal accessibility of self-driving cars is necessary and essential and leads to more research and design.

Committee

  • Jason Germany, Chair (Industrial Design)
  • Ahn Sang-gyeun (Industrial Design)
  • Axel Roesler (Interaction Design)

Commentary

Read the full essay about Solji Lee’s thesis by Heidi Biggs.

As the landscape of new technology changes so rapidly that at times it can be hard to fully grasp, there seems to be some enjoyment in critiquing emerging technologies through speculative design. However, Solji Lee demonstrates that speculations can also imagine how emerging technologies can foster equity. Lee’s thesis is committed to imagining a more accessible future by re-designing autonomous vehicle (AV) taxis in ways that will give disabled people equitable access to AV taxis in the future. What resulted from this agenda is quite inventive — her research is part case study of how to apply universal design principles for accessibility to emerging technologies and part exploration of how 3D modeling and animation can be used to conduct speculative co-design with people with disabilities. The implications of her research are far reaching and by imagining preferable and more equitable futures, she exposes the inequities in public and private transportation for people with disabilities today.

— Heidi Biggs

Bio

Seattle-based UX designer, Solji Lee, has been honing her skills in universal design for the past several years. Initially a product designer, Solji enjoyed solving problems in visuals in a rapid phase with her design thinking skill.

Awards

  • Striker Design Graduate Award, University of Washington, Seattle, 2021
  • CREATE Student Minigrant, University of Washington, Seattle, 2021

Education

  • Master of Design, University of Washington, Seattle, 2021
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts, Industrial Design, Konkuk University