The use of robotic assistive technologies has been shown to be very helpful in improving accessibility to transportation for people with disabilities. Robotic guide dogs, robotic assistants for people with physical disabilities, and cognitive disabilities have been developed throughout the world to help passengers navigate through public spaces, including transportation stations and vehicles. In this Transit IDEA project, a robotic system, the TrainMate, was designed as a cost-effective, train station or public transportation assistant robot to help passengers with disabilities using mobility devices independently board and deboard trains at non-accessible, street-level train stations. The system can also provide service to passengers with other types of disabilities. It can also cater to other specific needs of the transit agency such as security and surveillance, cleansing and disinfection, public health monitoring, station asset inspection and providing announcements and general information to the passengers. The research team conducted a thorough requirements analysis and developed electromechanical CAD blueprints of a working prototype of the TrainMate robotic system. The software system and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms were also developed and tested under varying scenarios and environmental test cases. The final simulation results indicated that the TrainMate system takes just a little over two minutes to board or deboard a passenger using a mobility device on a railcar as opposed to the average of 7 minutes it takes the train station staff to do so. This is more than 300% increase in efficiency. The research has also resulted in several blueprints of hardware and software components that are ready to be prototyped and integrated to build the first physical working prototype of the TrainMate system. The fully developed TrainMate system will afford physically challenged passengers with autonomy and independence in using public transportation. It will also provide public transit agencies a modular and flexible technology platform to address the ever-changing needs and requirements of their passengers in an efficient and practical manner making use of advancements in technology.
The final report is available