Stephen Still’s memorial to Heyward Patterson at the 5th Annual SmartDrivingCars Summit provided a tragic example of why better mobility options are needed for the people in countless neighborhoods and regions of the U.S.
As background, Heyward Patterson was the so-called jitney driver providing rides to the grocery store for people in Buffalo without a car or the ability to drive a car. This was just one of the many volunteer roles that Deacon Patterson performed through his Church. As his cousin said,
“He did the little, small things, which became the very big things. By taking people to the grocery store, by looking out for people who are getting a job, just giving the extra step to make sure that our people are good.”WGRZ – https://youtu.be/UO7zp1Pclu0?t=28
Tragically, along with nine others, Patterson’s life was cut short last May while doing his essential volunteer work.
Removing Roadblocks #
The challenge of improving mobility for the citizens of Buffalo and beyond is something that the Stephen Still Institute for Sustainable Transportation and Logistics has been tackling since its 2017 inception. Leveraging a $4M endowment from Still, the Institute provides a multi-disciplinary approach to solving transportation problems.
One example of their work is the 2021 $8.2M grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to address,
“…the transportation needs of three distinct populations: people with mobility, visual and hearing disabilities, people living in low-income neighborhoods and older adults.”University of Buffalo, February 18th, 2021
That program includes all aspects of mobility, including sidewalk and intersection improvements, wayfinding, and implementation of electric, driverless vehicles.
In the above interview, Still touches upon the efforts of that program. He laments the demise of Local Motors and its Accessible Olli autonomous shuttle. Still, he is encouraged that other service providers, such as Beep and May Motors, recognize the importance of accessibility in providing autonomous, shared shuttle service.1
Finally, Still lauds the work of his former professor, Alain Kornhauser, and the leadership in Trenton with their progress to improve mobility for the people of New Jersey’s capital and beyond.
1 Waymo’s Accessibility Network appears to be another positive step in ensuring the autonomous journey is accessible to all.
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