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Self-Driving Taxi for People with Restricted Mobility Wins Ford ‘New Designers’ Award

Travelling by car or on public transport can be challenging for people with limited mobility. Each year in the UK, disabled adults make 26 per cent fewer trips than adults without a disability.

Now, Calum Gambrill, a Product and Industrial Design student from Ravensbourne University, London, has developed a solution that could provide disabled people and senior citizens with an affordable self-driving taxi service to get around cities.

The “Embark” concept has won the “Ford Design Award”, part of the “New Designers 2021 Awards” – the largest design graduate show in the UK. The Ford Award challenged design students to take a human-centric approach to autonomous vehicle concepts, imagining the user experience in terms of interiors, lighting, accessibility and entertainment.    

“The future is a designer's dream. I’m happy to see young people from different creative industries thinking out of the box. We need to embrace unknown things in order to create new inspirational experiences in the car,” said Amko Leenarts, director of Design, Ford of Europe.

“Embark” is envisioned as an accessible and inclusive taxi service, utilising a dedicated app and a fleet of electric self-driving vehicles. The user hails the vehicle with the app, then enters via a side door ramp. The onboard Wi-Fi enables passengers to access the internet and listen to music during the journey. The vehicle would also be connected with other autonomous vehicles to calculate the most efficient routes and find available parking. Payment would be per kilometre or through a monthly subscription service.  

“The real human rights insights identified by Calum made his entry a standout for us, as ‘Embark’ embraces human-centred design. He also identified an opportunity area for autonomous vehicles, which seems a great match for the needs he defined, illustrating the incredible scope for change this technology can provide,” said Usha Raghavachari, lab director, D-Ford, the company’s group of global creative innovation labs that look from two to 15 years into the future and take a human-centered approach to problem solving and design.

For his winning concept, Gambrill receives £1,000 (€1,160) to support the development of his design career, plus two months of mentoring from designers at D-Ford. The judging panel included Leenarts and Raghavachari, along with Betsy Fields-Smith, director of IDEO, and James McLachlan, editor of Car Design News.

“Design concepts which are truly driven by insight into people's unmet needs are the ones that tend to have the most meaningful impact. Focusing on a user group which public transit often fails, therefore, feels very worthwhile, and most emblematic of Ford’s human-centered design process and values,” Fields-Smith said.

The runners-up were an interior design concept from Olivia Goldsmith incorporating an interactive dashboard, mood lighting and glow-in-the-dark seats; and a bubble seat from Lili Chen that adapts to every human body shape to reduce fatigue and increase comfort. Other entries included interiors that utilise ethical and recycled materials, emphasise mental health and well-being, and are interactive to offer a sense of fun and play.

“While many of the submissions focused on materials and lighting design, the one that put forward a mobility system stood out, as it offers a solution to a tangible problem: improve the prospects of disabled people wishing to travel, a problem pertinent to London and other big cities where the mass transit systems are less than adequate for this often-marginalised section of society,” McLachlan said.

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About New Designers

New Designers provides a unique platform for fresh design talent to connect with design educators, professionals and consumers, for creative exchange and collaboration. As the largest showcase of UK design graduates, New Designers connects the freshest talent with businesses looking to bring in new design thinking; buyers looking to source the most innovative craft and design; and aspiring students with the widest range of design courses available to explore. New Designers provides two weeks of incredible design discovery; and breaks the boundaries between the different disciplines, with an increasing number of collaborations and new opportunities. You’ll discover new ideas, products, trends and talent. Beyond this, New Designers is a platform for discourse and debate, from social, political and environmental influences and challenges – to how we can use design to create a more sustainable future.

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan, that is committed to helping build a better world, where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams.  The company’s Ford+ plan for growth and value creation combines existing strengths, new capabilities and always-on relationships with customers to enrich experiences for and deepen the loyalty of those customers.  Ford designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of connected, increasingly electrified passenger and commercial vehicles:  Ford trucks, utility vehicles, vans and cars, and Lincoln luxury vehicles.  The company is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, connected vehicle services and mobility solutions, including self-driving technology, and provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.  Ford employs about 186,000 people worldwide.  More information about the company, its products and Ford Motor Credit Company is available at

Ford of Europe

is responsible for producing, selling and servicing Ford brand vehicles in 50 individual markets and employs approximately 43,000 employees at its wholly owned facilities and consolidated joint ventures and approximately 55,000 people when unconsolidated businesses are included. In addition to Ford Motor Credit Company, Ford Europe operations include Ford Customer Service Division and 14 manufacturing facilities (10 wholly owned facilities and four unconsolidated joint venture facilities). The first Ford cars were shipped to Europe in 1903 – the same year Ford Motor Company was founded. European production started in 1911.

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