Autism Spectrum Disorder and Automated Vehicles

Each year in the U.S., about 50,000 people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) reach the age of 18. Research shows that employment and education outcomes for adults with ASD are very poor: more than half being unlikely to secure a job or continue their education after two years of high school and only about 30 percent will do so after six years. To secure employment and educational opportunities, adults with ASD, like most Americans, must be able to drive and have access to a car. However, adults with ASD face neuro-developmental challenges that can make driving very difficult (e.g., sensory integration, nonverbal communication, motor coordination, and concentration challenges). It appears that only about 25% of “high functioning” ASD adults are independent drivers. Could autonomous vehicle technology provide the support that ASD adults need to safely access employment and educational opportunities? Fully automated vehicles may be a decade or more away, but could partially automated vehicles overcome barriers to ASD adults driving now or at least in the very near future? The objectives and outcomes of this research are to access available knowledge about the prospects for automated vehicle technology to address mobility challenges that severely limit the participation of adult ASD individuals in education, employment, and other essential activities. 


Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility
San José State University

Principal Investigator: 

Caroline Rodier, Ph.D.

PI Contact Information: 

Mineta Transportation Institute
San José State University
210 N. 4th St., 4th Floor
San Jose, CA 95112 

Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization): 

U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology – ($69,993.30) 

Total Project Cost: 


Agency ID or Contract Number: 



October 2017 to June 2020

Implementation of Research Outcomes: 

The objectives will be accomplished through a review of the existing literature and expert interviews with professionals who (1) work with adult individuals with ASD to understand current transportation challenges and client experiences with paratransit and ridesourcing companies (i.e., professionals involved with automated vehicle regulations), (2) are knowledgeable about legal and regulatory barriers in California and the U.S., and (3) understand the specific technologies that could benefit the ASD population now and in the future. 

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