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Moovit Powers Public-Transport Independence For The Blind


After a partnership with transit app Moovit, visually impaired users of the WeWALK smart cane will be able to identify and navigate to bus stops and train stations, access real-time arrival information, and get live step-by-step guidance for the entire journey. (Courtesy of WeWALK and Moovit)

By Abigail Klein Leichman

Moovit, the world’s No. 1 mobility app, has begun a partnership with WeWALK enabling blind and partially sighted users to navigate public transportation independently.

Introduced in 2012 and acquired by Intel in 2021, the Israeli-developed Moovit app is used by more than one billion users in 3,400 cities across 112 countries in 45 languages. WeWALK is a UK startup that developed an award-winning smart cane for visually impaired people.

Moovit’s technology allows WeWALK users to identify and navigate to the correct bus stops and train stations; access real-time arrival information; get live step-by-step guidance for the entire journey; receive audio and text Get Off Alerts; and obtain service alerts regarding changes and disruptions on their route.

“This is a really important partnership for us, as it aligns perfectly with our mission to simplify urban mobility for everyone and make it more efficient and sustainable,” says Luke Redfern, Moovit’s UK and Ireland partnership manager.

“We were introduced to WeWALK earlier this year and it was clear we had a shared vision to make sure no one is left behind,” Redfern tells ISRAEL21c.

According to the World Health Organization, there are about 253 million visually impaired people worldwide, many of whom use a white cane.

While the standard white cane helps users avoid obstacles at ground level, it can’t help them navigate higher obstacles and it certainly can’t assist in finding the correct bus or subway station or planning the journey.

Using a WeWALK cane on the street. (Courtesy of WeWALK and Moovit)

This means many people with visual impairment simply don’t use public transportation, making them dependent on others to get where they need to go.

In fact, says Redfern, Moovit did a case study a couple of years ago in Toronto that revealed many of those in the disabled community had stopped using public transport because of a change to the system. In cooperation with a nonprofit organization, Moovit produced a white label application to solve this problem.

But the partnership with WeWALK reaches all Moovit users everywhere.

“WeWALK created a smart box that attaches to the white cane and shares sensory information from waist high and above through ultrasonic sensors and a vibrating handle,” says Redfern. It also has a voice assistant.

“We added to that, at no cost, a transport API which enables WeWALK app users to navigate to bus stops and get real-time information about when the train or tram is arriving, in addition to step by step guidance to get off at the right stop.”

A Bluetooth connection to the cane provides extremely granular information. For instance, the voice assistant may instruct the WeWALK user to “walk 100 meters in the 3 o’clock direction.”

A WeWALK user on a subway train. (Courtesy of WeWALK and Moovit)

Redfern notes that Moovit is constantly enhancing its own application and already offers features designed for people with vision impairment, color blindness, hand-motor impairment and mobility challenges.

A wheelchair user can find out if a particular bus has adequate space for the chair, for example.

Mobility is a basic human right

“We believe mobility is a basic human right,” says Redfern.

“We’ve spent the past 10 years investing heavily in making mobility available to everyone. So it makes total sense for us to work with WeWALK to enhance services to those in the disabled community, ultimately providing greater access to opportunities for employment, education and social activities.”

Jean Marc Feghali, WeWALK’s Head of Research and Development, said WeWALK’s mission of creating life-changing mobility tools is a collaborative process with word-leading partners.

“A prominent example is the delivery of efficient, usable and reliable access to public transport data. The WeWALK team’s lived experience of visual impairment only makes this need more apparent, a solution more critical, and our promise more personal,” Feghali said.

“Moovit’s partnership with WeWALK is an extraordinary step forward to realizing our mission, and our promise, of uncompromised visually impaired mobility.”

Next summer, Moovit and Mobileye — both Israel-based companies acquired by Intel — will launch MoovitAV, a six-passenger, road-ready electric autonomous vehicle (AV) for commercial driverless ride-hailing services in Tel Aviv and Munich.

Produced in association with ISRAEL21c.

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