The Moovit App and Smart Cane Add Mobility to the Visually-Impaired

Moovit, a leading provider of mobile-based transportation services with a globally popular trip planning software, has teamed up with WeWALK, a smart cane firm, to make it easier for visually impaired individuals to get where they want to go safer and more quickly.

The Moovit Transit API will now be integrated into WeWALK’s software, which uses official transit agency data with crowd-sourced information to provide the greatest route for each journey so that visually impaired people can travel safely on public transportation, according to WeWALK’s R&D lead, Jean Marc Feghali.

Following several Moovit integrations with micromobility firms such as Lime, Bird, and recently Superpedestrian to show their common electric scooters and bikes on the app, the collaboration comes as no surprise.

In addition, Moovit has launched new business divisions focused on on-demand transit in remote areas, as well as a partnership with Mobileye, another Intel company.

It appears as though Moovit, which currently serves 3,400 cities, is attempting to be everywhere and cater to everyone. The visually impaired should certainly be accommodated by this policy. Transportation technology particularly designed for the disabled community isn’t exactly plentiful right now, but a few helpful ideas are beginning to surface.

Ashirase, a Honda innovation incubated in Japan and Singapore, just debuted with an in-shoe navigation system that is comparable to WeWALK’s cane. Ultrasonic sensors in the smart device connected to the cane provide upper-body obstacle detection that is aided by an ultrasonic sensor. The user is alerted to objects detected at various distances through haptic feedback generated by vibration motors built into the cane.

“Indeed, WeWALK can do much more, including providing directions to bus stops,” Feghali told.

“Through Bluetooth, the smart cane connects to our WeWALK smartphone app, which we consider to be one of the most comprehensive and accessible visually impaired navigation apps available. Our app integrates with the Moovit service and our custom-built navigation engine and app interface to provide walking and public transport navigation and urban exploration features.”

The cane guides users on their journey step-by-step through audio directions and low vision mapping, directing them to transport stops and notifying them when the next transportation vehicle arrives. The system also informs the user when boarding and when they’ve arrived at their destination, so they know whether they’re at the right stop and when to get off.

The best aspect for customers is that they don’t need to hold their phone with one hand and their cane with the other. The handle of the cane has a built-in touchpad linked to the app, allowing users to perform gestures without having to use both hands.

“For instance, if a user is navigating to Imperial College London, the smart cane will announce the route options and guide the user step-by-step through each phase,” Feghali said. “For walking directions, WeWALK will announce, ‘Head 12 o’clock on Buckingham Palace Road for 50 meters and turn right, 3 o’clock, onto Station Road.’ At the metro station, WeWALK will notify the user of the right train to board when it arrives and will warn the user before they need to get off.”

The organization is launching the initiative to commemorate International Persons with Disabilities Day on Friday, and it will hopefully provide visually impaired individuals more independence and mobility as they attempt to access employment, education, and social activities.

“While blind and partially sighted people have more independence than ever before, getting around via public transit can still be daunting and overwhelming,” Yovav Meydad, Moovit’s chief growth and marketing officer, said in a statement.

“Through our partnership, we aim to instill more reassurance in people by breaking down some of these mobility barriers, empowering them to access more opportunities available to them.”