Today, there are over 25 million Americans with travel-limiting disabilities, and of this group, only a fifth are able to work due to the severity of their conditions . While the cause of disability may vary, those who have lost movement ability share several key needs. First, patients need tools that provide the option for therapeutic exercise so they can recover lost function, if possible. Second, tools need to provide a motivational component to keep patients engaged in the recovery process. Third, tools must provide a way for patients to move about life as they recover . Considering that most disabilities also come at a high lifetime cost in addition to limiting the ability to work, as is the case with traumatic spinal cord injury (TSCI) where costs can range in the millions for a single patient, tools must also be affordable to be effective [3-6].
Past attempts to solve these challenges have come in the forms of design modifications to the wheelchair to provide therapy and even more technical creations like exoskeletons which assist paralyzed users to walk . Autonomous vehicles pose another attractive answer that can provide even greater independence than aforementioned solutions. Given that automobile accidents are an overwhelming cause of some of the most devastating disabilities like TSCI, autonomous vehicles could even serve as a preventative measure. Considering that 78% of patients with TSCI are young men under the age of 30, an autonomous vehicle truly designed for disability in mind could mean the difference of a lifetime of experiences [3-6].