Alphabet’s Waymo subsidiary and chipmaker Intel have launched separate campaigns to promote autonomous driving technology. While Intel seems to be going it alone and focusing on TV ads with celebrities like LeBron James, Waymo has partnered with several safety and advocacy groups for its campaign, which seems more aimed at starting a conversation using the hashtag #letstalkselfdriving than pushing out its message via ads, at least for now. Waymo is an obvious company to be pushing the technology given that autonomy is its raison d’être and it has its own cars on the street in various markets, while Intel is clearly aiming for the same kind of indirect approach it took to its famous “Intel Inside” campaigns back in the day. These are, after all, mostly awareness campaigns at this point – there’s nothing any consumer could buy after seeing the efforts from either campaign, and most consumers aren’t even aware of regulatory efforts in this area yet either. But both campaigns are clearly aware of broad skepticism shown in recent surveys about autonomous driving and want to start the education process early. Waymo’s campaign is particularly focused on the accessibility and safety benefits and its partners – which include an organization serving the blind and another serving seniors. That gels well with the NHTSA stats I shared earlier today, which demonstrated again the potential safety benefits of a computer not prone to alcohol use, speeding, or distraction driving a car.
A few weeks back, I did an episode of the Beyond Devices Podcast on accessibility, in which I interviewed a former colleague of mine, Chris Lewis, who is registered blind. In the episode, Chris talks about how he uses an iPhone and Windows computers along with their various accessibility features and additional software to get his work as an analyst done. This week, Apple has a new set of videos out in which it showcases its accessibility features across various products, which continue to be among the best in the business. But as Chris and I discussed on the podcast, it appears Android and Samsung in particular are getting better at supporting accessibility features too, and Microsoft has also been making more fuss about this lately, although a lot of its PR around accessibility has been around custom projects created by employees and developers rather than standard features. It’s great to see all these companies taking accessibility seriously and using their technology to make a huge difference in the lives of people with vision, hearing, or other impairments. The Apple videos do a great job of conveying just how central these technologies are to the lives their subjects live. The timing is intended to coincide with Global Accessibility Awareness Day tomorrow.
With Project Torino, Microsoft creates a physical programming language inclusive of visually impaired children (Mar 15, 2017)
Technology has enormous power to provide opportunities to children and adults with disabilities which otherwise wouldn’t be open to them, but it can also exclude students in educational settings where tools are designed for those without disabilities or visual or other impairments. This Microsoft project is a great example of using technology to reinvent a concept – coding – in such a way that both those with normal vision and the visually impaired can participate together. It’s just a beta project on a very limited scale for now, but hopefully it will expand into something broader down the road. Even better, of course, is building accessibility technology into the devices and services we use every day, something Microsoft has long been committed to as well.