Pedestrians face significant challenges when traversing pathways, especially wheelchair users, people with disabilities, and older adults. The leading cause of injury for a wheelchair user is a tip and fall, but vibrations can lead to neck and back pain. One in three older adults trip and fall, and costs $34 billion annually in direct medical bills. As a result, sidewalk assessment surveys make up an expanding $2 billion segment of the infrastructure management market. Accurate data is critical for cities to make informed decisions on improvement prioritization. It is also extremely valuable in helping pedestrians understand the safe and accessible routes to travel.
Aim: The goal of this project is to implement a pedestrian navigation tool in the City of Indianapolis to improve the mobility and quality of life of all people who live in and visit Indianapolis.
ASTM E3028: pathVu stems from the work that was conducted by our team at the University of Pittsburgh and Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL). HERL is a research lab focused on developing technologies for people with disabilities that will improve their quality of life. During the team’s time at HERL, we developed standard ASTM E3028, Standard Practice for Computing Wheelchair Pathway Roughness Index as Related to Comfort, Passability, and Whole Body Vibrations from Longitudinal Profile Measurements.” This standard has been published by ASTM International.
pathMet: In parallel, our team developed a tool to measure roughness and characterize other pathway conditions called pathMet. pathMet is a patent-pending manually propelled device, and it automatically collects important pathway data as it traverses a surface. It utilizes a laser, encoder, IMU (important for this study), camera, GPS, and other sensors to collect accurate data. After a pathway is measured, the running slope, cross-slope, level change, roughness, and width can be determined and the information can be mapped in Geographic Information Systems such as Google Earth or ArcGIS.
pathVu Navigation App (AccessPath): In 2017, pathVu was awarded a contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) as part of the Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI) for the Development of AccessPath: A pedestrian wayfinding tool tailored towards wheelchair users and individuals with visual impairments. This tool is the focus of the project in Indianapolis. Typical pedestrian wayfinding apps do not use the sidewalk network to provide navigation, nor do they know the quality of the routes that they direct their users. In addition, these apps are not user-friendly for people with disabilities. The pathVu Navigation app considers the pathway network, quality of routes, and user settings when suggesting pedestrian routes to travel. It can be used for pre-trip planning or real-time navigation. Users can also choose to submit reports of potential hazards in order to crowdsource pathway conditions. Although it may be shown as a mobile app, there is a web app version that can be implemented simultaneously. pathVu Navigation is downloadable on the Google Play and Apple App Stores, however all features may not be available everywhere until data is collected.
During this project, we will implement the pathVu Navigation App in the major business districts in Indianapolis. The tool will provide users with real-time navigation and step-by-step directions along the most accessible route to their destination. pathVu Navigation will be implemented along 100 miles of sidewalks and pedestrian pathways in the business districts. At the conclusion of the project, users will be able to use the pathVu Navigation app or web app to receive these directions.
In order to accomplish this goal, we will follow five primary steps:
- Form advisory group with local organizations and people with disabilities
- Collect pathMet data in the areas of interest
- Partner with advisory group to collect additional data
- Analyze the collected data and implement into the app
- Launch pilot and conduct user testing
1. Form advisory group with local organizations and people with disabilities: This step will involve meet with local organizations, people with disabilities, walkability groups, Visit Indianapolis, and other local advocates to hear their concerns about accessibility and walkability. The first step is to understand the Indianapolis ecosystem and hear directly from the people who live there. This step will include meetings with these organizations and/or individuals. From these groups and individuals, we will create an advisory group who we will work with throughout the project.
2. Collect pathMet data in the areas of interest: During this step, we will collect the necessary data with our pathMet device that will go into the pathVu Navigation app to support the routing. This data will be collected along the 100 miles of sidewalk and pathway centerlines in the business districts. The data will identify pathway tripping hazards, roughness, running slope, cross slope, and width. We will also collect curb ramp location and subjective quality. This step should take approximately four weeks of data collection by one technician.
3. Partner with advisory group to collect additional data: During this step, we will partner with the advisory group organizations and individuals to support data collection. This data collection will be done through the pathVu Navigation App. As part of this effort, pathVu will pay (or reward with gift cards) participants for the data that is collected. The amount or method has not been completely determined. Data of interest will partially be determined by the advisory group. However, we believe that data of interest will include self-reported hazards, construction, and accessible entrances. They may also support the reporting of curb ramp data. Further, we can expand beyond the 100-mile area by allowing advisory group users to map sidewalk centerlines to begin scaling to other neighborhoods. This step helps to set a landscape to assist with scalability and keeping data up to date.
4. Analyze the collected data and implement into the app: After Steps 3 and 4, all data will go through post processing and quality assurance. The pathMet data will run through pathVu's post-processing program and analysis process. The advisory group data will be analyzed by pathVu staff, looking for any errors or inaccuracies of data, such as missing data or inaccurate locations. During this step, the advisory group data will be combined with the pathMet data for integration into the app. Once the quality assurance process is complete, all data can be published and ready for use in Indianapolis.
5. Launch pilot and conduct user test: At this point the process, pathVu Navigation will be usable in the areas where data was collected. We will work with the advisory group to test the app, provide feedback on its usability, and suggestions for improvements. This step will be completed through in-person meetings and discussions with the user groups. Further, surveys may be completed from additional testers outside the immediate advisory group. This user testing will provide important information regarding areas for improvement and how pathVu Navigation can be implemented and widely used across all of Indianapolis.
BONUS: The data that is collected by pathMet is valuable for prioritizing sidewalk improvements. It is our goal to work with the City to assist with this planning aid in the improvement of the sidewalk infrastructure.
At the completion of these five steps, there will be a pilot mobile and web app that residents and visitors of Indianapolis can use to understand the most accessible pedestrian routes. The mobile app will be hosted on the pathVu app, while the web app has the ability to integrate on organization websites.
TIMELINE: 6 months (assuming good weather for data collection)
ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGE AREA:
pathVu was founded with the mission and passion to enable independent mobility and improve accessibility for all pedestrians, of any ability. Our personal desires, experiences, and family members with disabilities drive us every day to develop and advance this technology. The pathVu team is educated in both engineering and developing assistive technology for people with disabilities. With this mission in mind, our pathVu Navigation app is specifically designed for people with disabilities, while making it usable by all people. Funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation's ATTRI program for assistive technology research, pathVu Navigation helps people with disabilities understand the most accessible routes to travel. Further, it enables their independence and increases their mobility by helping them understand how they are able to get around, replacing the fear that their are no accessible routes. Although this may be true at times, pathVu Navigation ensures that the suggested route meets the user's abilities to navigate the environment. For example, if a user requires curb ramps, it suggests a route with all curb ramps. If a user wishes to avoid hills, it takes them a route that is flatter. As part of the ATTRI project, we have conducted focuses groups with people with mobility, visual, cognitive, and hearing disabilities. We constantly strive to develop technologies that meet the needs of every user, although it is an ongoing process. By using pathVu Navigation, users will be able to get around the city more easily, reaching their destination safely, on time, and independently.
During future phases of this project, pathVu will continue to add data in other areas of the city, with the goal of mapping 100% of the city. In addition, pathVu will continue to add features to the app, such as the location of accessible points of interest (i.e. restaurants) and the ability for multimodal navigation. Once pathVu tackles the sidewalk challenge, we will expand to addressing the transit and multimodal challenge of navigation. We will continue to gather feedback from users and gradually add those features in the app based on those user comments.
Eric Sinagra, CEO and co-founder: Eric Sinagra has successfully led pathVu for the past five years in business and product development. Eric has a Master's in Rehabilitation Science and Technology from the University of Pittsburgh.
Dan Seitam, Interim CFO: Dan Seitam is a serial entrepreneur and assists pathVu with business development and strategic planning.
Paulette Duderstadt, Interim CMO: Paulette Duderstadt leads the strategic marketing and public relations growth of pathVu.
Nick Sinagra, Director of Technology: Nick Sinagra (brother to Eric Sinagra) has led the development of the pathVu Navigation app as Director of Technology and lead app developer. Nick is a wheelchair user and end user of pathVu Navigation.
Jon Duvall, PhD, Data Analyst and Co-founder: Jon Duvall leads the pathMet data analysis efforts. Jon is a wheelchair user and end user of pathVu Navigation.
Jon Pearlman, PhD, advisor and co-founder: Jon Pearlman is Chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology at the University of Pittsburgh.
Thank you for your time and consideration!