Isabelle Wandenkolk Works with Rural Veterans to Understand Perceptions, Acceptance of Autonomous Vehicles

Isabelle Wandenkolk, MPH, CPH, Doctoral Student, UF Occupational Therapy

Isabelle Wandenkolk is a doctoral student in the Department of Occupational Therapy’s Institute for Mobility, Activity, and Participation (I-MAP). She will be working in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to better understand the perceptions of rural Veterans as it relates to the acceptance and adoption of automated vehicle (AV) technology.

The title of the project is “Promoting Veteran Centric Rural Transportation Options via Automated Shuttle Exposure”. The principal investigator is Dr. Sherrilene Classen, professor and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy.

In this project, Wandenkolk will be responsible for recruiting and collecting data on mobility-vulnerable rural Veterans’ perceptions and attitudes regarding AV technology.

This study will utilize three automated shuttles that are currently in Gainesville, Florida, and which have been tested to provide fixed-route services in an optimally safe environment and with low cost.

“I am excited to learn about Veterans’ different viewpoints and acceptability of automated vehicle technology, and how they believe this technology will impact their lives,” she said.

Access to comprehensive, quality healthcare services is crucial to promoting and maintaining health. And understanding the challenges that Veterans face in accessing health care is important, especially for those who are immobilized due to disease or disability and living in rural areas. Access to health care and services is also a top priority to the VA and is currently being addressed by multiple transportation and coordination systems. Although the VA is actively working to meet Veteran’ transportation needs, there are still gaps in the transportation system. Automated vehicle technology may simplify and improve the transportation system for Veterans in rural areas.

“Given the rapidly changing transportation environment, findings from this study will be crucial for the planning of optimal societal integration of mobility-vulnerable Veterans,” Wandenkolk said. “It is equally important for the future planning of how to provide transportation services to veterans within the VA system.”