Merlin Mobility Foundation

 11,962

The Merlin Prize

Designing 21st-century personal vehicles for people with disabilities.
stage:
Won
prize:
$35,000
Overview

Challenge Overview

 

Objective
 

The MerlinPrize (“the Challenge”) for accessible autonomous electric vehicles (A2EV) is a crowd-sourced design competition to generate innovative and inclusive transportation solutions for people with physical, sensory, and/or cognitive disabilities. Automotive industry experts predict that electric vehicles (EVs) will surpass the number of gas-powered vehicles on the road in the coming decades, and virtually all autonomous vehicles are electric. Unfortunately, adapting an EV to make it accessible by individuals that require a fixed-frame electric wheelchair or scooter to date has been cost-prohibitive due to the extensive reconfiguration of critical components required to permit ingress and egress. The goal of this challenge is to change this equation and make autonomous, electric vehicles accessible for all. The focus of the Challenge is to develop accessible, autonomous electric vehicles that function as personal vehicles.

An individual in a wheelchair might require a ramp, while a person with low vision might rely on enhanced auditory alerts. The length of a prosthetic leg controls the need for legroom so that a prosthesis can reach the floor without causing pain, and the level of hearing loss drives the demand of an individual’s more tactile and visual senses. Car manufacturers are currently struggling to evolve from their reliance on gas-powered to more sustainable, electric vehicles, and they are unlikely to spend the required resources to develop inclusive solutions to fit the needs of people with disabilities.

The objective of this Challenge is to change this equation and make autonomous, electric vehicles accessible for all. This Challenge will award a total prize purse of USD 35,000. Winners and semi-finalists will also receive an invitation to participate in The Merlin Venture Accelerator (see below for description).

Your Challenge
 

Design the future of mobility for people with physical, sensory, and/or cognitive disabilities.

  • Category 1: Submit a technically mature design for an autonomous, electric passenger vehicle that can accommodate a wheelchair or electric scooter in both the driver and passenger position and capable of operating at highway speeds. The design may be for an entirely new vehicle or an adaptation of an existing or soon to be released vehicle. Ingress and egress should meet the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and be at a Technical Readiness Level (TRL) of five or higher. If the design is based on the adaptation of an existing vehicle, please be explicit. 
     
  • Category #2:  Submit any creative ideas that may solve the problem of providing transportation solutions for people with disabilities. This category includes, but is not limited to, ideation stage concepts that are ADA compliant with any physical, cognitive, or sensory disability in mind. This opportunity allows entrants to be as creative and innovative as possible! Examples include concepts for innovative seating, door handles, window controls, a steering wheel, or any new technology that can support the future of accessible EVs for people with disabilities. Applicants should consult the Americans with Disabilities Act and aim for the highest Technical Readiness Level possible.

The full guidelines and criteria will become available when the Challenge opens for submissions on July 26, 2020. Until then, please keep submitting your questions, and we will continue to curate answers for our FAQ section.

 

Why This Challenge Matters
 

Reducing transportation-related obstacles for older adults and people with disabilities will enable increased socio-economic opportunities and could save billions of dollars annually by allowing individuals to age in place. Everyone faces disability at some point, even if temporary, often as the result of injury, sickness, or aging. The World Bank estimates that approximately one billion people in the world have some form of disability. A disability can present a significant challenge to accessing transportation, which is usually a requirement for access to jobs, education, healthcare, and a high quality of life.

Despite the rapid technological advances over the past few decades, transportation options for people with disabilities—especially those requiring the use of wheelchairs—have not changed significantly. Vehicles are becoming increasingly autonomous and electric, which holds enormous potential to enable independence, equality, health, and social well-being of older adults and people with disabilities by offering independent mobility for daily activities. Yet virtually none of the designs for these emerging vehicles are accessible. Unless something changes, the most significant potential beneficiaries of this new technology will have no access to it.

One billion people experiencing some form of disability equates to approximately 15% of the world’s population. Are you ready to change the world?

 

Prizes
 

  • Category #1 Winner will receive 25,000 USD.
     
  • Category #2: 1st place Winner will receive USD 6,000, 2nd place Winner will receive USD 3,000, and 3rd place winner will receive USD 1,000.
     
  • The Merlin Venture Accelerator: In addition to the monetary prizes listed above, top submissions will receive an invitation to participate in a Venture Accelerator, which will take place virtually. If selected, you will connect to experts with extensive industry experience that will help turn your design into a commercializable product or feature to be included as part of a larger project. This mentorship opportunity will also help expand your network and connections, leading to additional advancement in your career.

 

“We need to identify new ways to provide more efficient, affordable and accessible transportation services for people with disabilities, older adults and other underserved communities."

- US Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao, in announcing the USDOT Inclusive Design Challenge

Guidelines

Challenge Guidelines

Note from Oct. 22, 2020: Winners for the Merlin Prize will now be announced on Friday, October 23, 2020. Thank you for your patience! 

September 11, 2020 Announcement
 

Thank you for your interest in the Merlin Prize! A lot has happened since we kicked off the prize a few months ago. We unfortunately, though, have some heartbreaking news to share. Last month, one of our judges, and someone who had quickly become a dear friend to us, had her life taken, far, far too early. When we were connected earlier this year, Annaleigh Grilo was an 18-year-old who had just lost her leg to cancer. And last month, she lost her life. 
 

Annaleigh was looking forward to seeing the proposals and being a part of our mission in creating transportation more accessible to all. In her honor, we have decided to name our business incubator The Annaleigh Grilo Venture Accelerator. Annaleigh had many goals for her life, and one of them was to be independent. Our Prize and the Accelerator should help make that dream a reality for many others like her.


Given this loss and the challenging time we are all in at the moment,  we have decided to extend the timeline for submissions to October 4, 2020, for both Category 1 and Category 2. We will be announcing the winners on October 22. We hope you understand the unfortunate circumstances and that this timeline adjustment is acceptable to everyone.
 

For those of you who have already submitted a proposal, please reach out to Tomomi (tomomi@drivemerlin.com) or reach out to us on the Forum if you would like to continue and improve your submission. 

As always, don't hesitate to reach out with any question, and we look forward to reviewing your proposals in October!

Challenge Breakthrough

Help bring accessible transportation into the 21st century by creating design solutions that use advanced technology such as robotics, machine learning, camera vision, and other autonomous vehicle technologies for people with disabilities. 

Background

Despite the expansion of mass transit, personal vehicle transportation remains vital for most Americans. Access to transportation is essential for not only for most occupations and education, but also for accessing healthcare providers, religious services, recreation and leisure activities, shopping, voting, and many other community activities and services. To access transportation, many communities of people with disabilities require specific types of modifications and adaptive equipment to meet their transportation needs. The number of vehicles with adaptive equipment has been rising steadily, and it is expected to continue to increase as the U.S. population ages, and as access to employment, travel, and recreation continues to improve for individuals with disabilities. However, despite the progress achieved over the past few decades in automotive technology, material science, robotics, and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), the accessibility of personal vehicles has not increased significantly.

The Challenge

Design the future of mobility for people with physical, sensory, and/or cognitive disabilities.

  • Category 1: Submit a technically mature design for an autonomous, electric passenger vehicle that can accommodate a wheelchair or electric scooter in both the driver and passenger position and capable of operating at highway speeds. The design may be for an entirely new vehicle or an adaptation of an existing or soon to be released vehicle. Ingress and egress should meet the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and be at a Technical Readiness Level (TRL) of five or higher. If the design is based on the adaptation of an existing vehicle, please be explicit. 
     
  • Category 2:  Submit any creative ideas that may solve the problem of providing transportation solutions for people with disabilities, which may include personal vehicles or mass transit. This category includes, but is not limited to, ideation stage concepts that are ADA compliant with any physical, cognitive, or sensory disability in mind. This opportunity allows entrants to be as creative and innovative as possible. Examples include concepts for intelligent wheelchairs that integrate with vehicles, innovative seating, securement, door handles, window controls, steering wheels, and any new technology that can support the future of accessible EVs for people with disabilities. Applicants should consult the Americans with Disabilities Act and aim for the highest Technical Readiness Level (TRL) possible.

Prize

The Challenge offers up to 35,000 USD in prize money. 
 

  • Category #1 Winner will receive up to 25,000 USD.
     
  • Category #2:
    • First Place Winner will receive up to 6,000 USD.
    • Second Place Winner will receive up to 3,000 USD.
    • Third Place Winner will receive up to 1,000 USD.
       
  • The Merlin Venture Accelerator: In addition to the monetary prizes above, top submissions will receive an invitation to participate in the Merlin Venture Accelerator, which will take place virtually following the Prize selection. If selected, you will connect to experts with extensive industry experience that can help you turn your design into a commercializable product or feature to be included as part of a larger project. This mentorship opportunity will also help expand your network and connections, leading to additional advancement in your career.

Timeline

  • July 1, 2020: Pre-Registration opens
  • July 26, 2020: The Challenge opens to the public and will start receiving submissions
  • September 13, 2020: Submission deadline at 11:59pm PDT  EXTENDED
  • October 4, 2020: Submission deadline at 11:59pm PDT
  • October 22, 2020: Winners announced!

How do I win? 

  • Click ACCEPT CHALLENGE above to sign up for the challenge.
     
  • Read the Challenge Rules & Guidelines below to learn about the requirements and rules.
     
  • Follow us on Social Media (see below) and share this Challenge on your social media using the “Share” button above. Navigate to USEFUL RESOURCES for sample images and social posts. Display your involvement with this project with your friends, your family, and your professional networks.
  • Start a conversation in our Forum to join the conversation, ask questions, or connect with other innovators.
     
  • Satisfy and thoughtfully address the Submission Form Requirements.
     
  • Be scored higher than your competitors! Submissions with more precise details answering judging criteria questions below will score higher!

Submissions Guidelines & Challenge Rules

  • To be eligible to compete, you must comply with all the terms of the Challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement and accept our IP Agreement.

As detailed in the Challenge-Specific Agreement, Innovator will agree that (i) the materials provided to Sponsor in connection with the Submissions become Sponsor's property and will not be returned; and (ii) Innovator grants Sponsor an irrevocable, worldwide right to use any and all materials provided to Challenge Sponsor in connection with the Submissions, and the names, likenesses, voices, and images of all persons appearing in the Submission, for advertising, promotion, and publicity in any manner and in any medium now known or hereafter devised throughout the world in perpetuity. 

The Sponsor will require all content and assets submitted in connection with Submission by a Finalist to be licensed under open-source licenses that permit free distribution, derivative works, and use in commercial and non-commercial settings as provided in Challenge-Specific IP Agreement.

All Innovators are welcome and encouraged to depend on or make use of other components, libraries, content, assets, and code. All such materials must be available under any Open Source Initiative (OSI) or Creative Commons license compatible with the OSI or Creative Commons license under which the Submission will be released. “Compatible” means that each Innovator’s entire Submission must be usable without violating the license terms of those components licensed under the CC BY 4.0 license, Apache License 2.0, or respective OSI license for the components. Source code licensed under the LGPL, BSD, MIT, or Apache licenses currently meets this criterion; other open source licenses may also meet it. If Innovators make modifications to existing open-source projects, they are strongly encouraged to submit patches upstream and work to have them accepted. Patches that are not accepted upstream may be submitted as part of the code developed by the Innovator, under the same Apache License 2.0. Content and assets must be licensed under terms that permit commercial usage. The Creative Commons CC BY and CC-BY-SA licenses currently meet this criterion. Innovators cannot submit entries that include or rely on software or content that is either closed-source, proprietary, illegally sourced, or depends on per-seat licensing.

  • Entries must be submitted electronically on the HeroX platform per the guidelines below on or before 11:59 PM MST on September 13, 2020. No late submissions will be accepted.
     
  • Describe your idea. Include as much detail as possible, a description of any visual assets (see below), and an explanation of why and how your submission will make transportation more accessible for individuals with disabilities. Translation of all written and video submissions into English is required.
     
  • Include at least one visual illustration of your submission. File type options include CAD, PDF, JPEG, PNG, GIF. Your visual should complement your written description and can range from a detailed CAD image (strongly suggested for Category #1 submissions), or drawing or photos (more acceptable for Category #2). Your visual supplements must be accompanied by a written description of the visuals to make your submission accessible to all judges. Please note, we will automatically disqualify all entries without a visual supplement.
     
  • It is optional to submit an explainer video of your submission. This video should capture the overall concept, including any technical details, describe what makes it unique, and detail how it will solve our Challenge. The maximum video length is 3 minutes. Your video must be accompanied by a written description of the video to make your submission accessible to all judges.
     
  • The Challenge is open worldwide, except where prohibited or restricted by national or local law. Void wherever restricted or prohibited by US law.
     
  • No specific qualifications or expertise in the fields of disability, accessibility, autonomous vehicles, or electric vehicles are required. Prize organizers encourage all individuals and non-expert teams to compete and propose new solutions.
     
  • An individual or a design team may submit entries. The Challenge is open to all adult individuals, private teams, public teams, and collegiate teams. Teams may originate from any country except where embargoed by US law. Team members may also submit entries as an individual, provided those entries are substantially different than entries submitted by their design team.
     
  • Individual entrants must be 18 years of age or older at the time of application. Team entrants must have a Team Leader, who is at least 18 years of age, authorized to sign the IP Agreement on behalf of the team and receive any prize award on behalf of the group. A minor (under 18) can participate in the challenge as long as there is a guardian (a parent) present to execute any agreements, supervise the submission and provide consent as necessary.
     
  • Employees and the immediate families of the primary sponsors, their parent companies, subsidiaries, representatives, and advertising/promotional agencies must make their relationship known to the Challenge organizers before submitting and must receive written permission from the Challenge organizers before submission. Please note, we will automatically disqualify entries without disclosure and written approval from both team members and Challenge organizers.
     
  • The entrant, whether an individual or a team, may submit multiple entries to the Challenge, and may submit multiple entries per category, but each entry must be a substantially different design idea. Please note, the submission of the same design idea more than once automatically disqualifies the entry.
     
  • By participating in the Challenge, each competitor agrees to submit only their original idea. All applications will go through a process of due diligence; any application found to be misrepresentative, plagiarized, or sharing a design that is not their own will be automatically disqualified. All copyrighted or trademarked materials must include legal paperwork authorizing the use of the elements with the submission. Please note, we will automatically remove all ineligible applicants from the competition with no recourse or reimbursement for any expenses incurred.
     
  • No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win the competition.

Additional Information

  • Any submission found to be misrepresentative, plagiarized, or sharing an idea that is not their own will be automatically disqualified.
     
  • A written description of the visual images must accompany all visual submissions for accessibility-friendly judging.
     
  • We scheduled a live Questions and Answers webinar for August. This webinar will be an excellent opportunity for entrants to connect with the Challenge organizers and ask any questions regarding the Challenge. Find more information as the Challenge progresses on the “Updates” and FAQ tabs.

Judging Criteria

Our panel of judges with their extensive background in mobility, accessibility, innovation, transportation, and engineering will review all entries and score the submissions based on the following criteria: Solutions must, at a minimum:

In addition to meeting the ADA compliance checklist and higher Technology Readiness Level (at least level 5 for Category 1), submissions that answer more of the questions marked “Optional” in the Submission Form will score higher in both categories.
 

Category 1 Judging Criteria:

 

SectionDetails

Weight

Proposal Quality
  • Is the proposal clear with concise writing?
  • Are there thoughtful and complete explanations of how the proposed design concept meets the specifications listed in Category 1 or Category 2 criteria?
  • Is the proposal accompanied by a CAD file (or other file formats) that is clear and comprehensive?

15

Feasibility/ Manufacturability
  • Is your design consistent with Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA) principles? IE, does focus on reducing time-to-market and total production costs by prioritizing both the ease of manufacture for the product’s parts and the simplified assembly of those parts into the final product?  (For more information click here).
  • Does your design leverage existing manufacturing capabilities? Eg, does your design building upon an existing product or is it a clean-slate, new design?
  • If it is an adaptation or modification of an existing or soon to be released vehicle or electric drivetrain, has it been clearly identified?
  • What is the likelihood and feasibility of it being manufactured on a scale that is cost-effective.
  • What are the primary materials used?

20

Practicality
  • What is the quality of the explanation and supporting evidence for why a solution designates at that particular maturity level?
  • How would your solution fit in with current regulations and other government environments?
    • How are the users and passengers secured in the vehicle? NHTSA compliant safety features would be ideal.
    • Would this provide more accessible and safer transportation opportunities to the target user?

10

Marketability
  • Is this idea culturally appropriate and inclusive to the target audience you defined?
    • What is the total size of the market opportunity or user group?
    • Are there any proven use cases?
    • Would the user be excited about this product and its design? Why?
    • What is the overall cost for the end-user? Is that cost economical for end-users?
    • What is the manufacturing cost of producing this vehicle?

 10

Creativity
  • Describe how your solution could be altered to fit different disabilities or user contexts.
    • How would the user navigate with the external world outside of the vehicle?
  • Tell us the story of how you came up with the idea and why this is important to you.
    • Did you source from a variety of places, including personal experiences, to create the idea? Is this an original and creative idea?
  • What makes this idea/product unique compared to what is already available?
    • How is it “out-of-the-box” thinking?

15

Innovation
  • Novelty or creativity of the proposed approach.
  • The elegance of design.
  • Describe how the innovation overcomes limitations and constraints of existing technologies or commercial products.

20

Alignment
  • How does your product demonstrate traits reflective of Merlin Mobility Foundation’s mission of making transportation accessible for all?

10


Category 2 Judging Criteria:

 

SectionDetails

Weight

Proposal Quality
  • Is the proposal clear with concise writing?
  • Are there thoughtful and complete explanations of how the proposed design concept meets the specifications listed in Category 1 or Category 2 criteria?
  • Is the proposal accompanied by a CAD file (or other file formats) that is clear and comprehensive? Include at least one visual illustration of your submission that details your product/concept.

15

Feasibility/
Manufacturability
  • Is the proposal clear with concise writing?
  • Are there thoughtful and complete explanations of how the proposed design concept meets the specifications listed in Category 1 or Category 2 criteria?
  • Is the proposal accompanied by a CAD file (or other file formats) that is clear and comprehensive? Include at least one visual illustration of your submission that details your product/concept.

20

Practicality
  • How would your solution fit in with current regulations and other products on the market?
    • How will users and passengers be secured in the vehicle?
    • Does the design meet NHTSA compliant safety guidelines? And if not, where are they deficient?
    • Would this provide easier and safer transportation opportunities to the target user? How?
  • What is the overall cost for the user? Is that cost economical for the end user?
  • What is the potential carbon impact of this product?

10

Marketability
  • Is this idea culturally appropriate and inclusive to the target audience you defined?
    • What is the total size of the market opportunity or user group?
    • Are there any proven use cases?
    • Would the user be excited about this product and its design? Why?

10

Creativity
  • Describe how your solution could be altered to fit different disabilities or user contexts.
    • How would the user navigate with the external world outside of the vehicle?
  • Tell us the story of how you came up with the idea and why this is important to you.
    • Did you source from a variety of places, including personal experiences, to create the idea? Is this an original and creative idea?
  • What makes this idea/product unique compared to what is already available?
    • Is this “out-of-the-box” thinking?

10

Alignment
  • How does your product demonstrate traits reflective of Merlin Mobility Foundation’s mission of making transportation accessible for all?

10

Selection of Winners:

Prizes will be awarded per the Judging Criteria section above. In the case of a tie, the winner(s) will be selected based on the highest number of votes from the Judges.

In the event that none of the submissions meet the Judging Criteria, the sponsor will award the following consolation prizes to the competitor(s) that score the highest:
 

  • Consolation Prize 1: $2,500 USD + Invitation to The Merlin Venture Accelerator
     
  • Consolation Prize 2: Invitation to The Merlin Venture Accelerator

 

Useful Resources

Graphics

Marketing

Technical contact

  • Siemens Premium Solidedge eCAD and mCAD software comes with a Help community and technical support. Please contact Siemens with any technical difficulties using the Solidedge Premium products. If you need additional assistance, please reach out to The Merlin Prize Moderator directly.
Timeline
Updates 2

Challenge Updates

Thank you all for participating in the Merlin Prize, and congratulations to the winners!

Oct. 26, 2020, 8:31 a.m. PDT by Tomomi Menjo

The Merlin Prize for accessible, autonomous electric vehicles (A2EV) has concluded. We want to thank all of our participants and judges for sharing our mission and developing innovative and inclusive transportation solutions for communities of individuals with physical, sensory, and/or cognitive disabilities. There were 38 incredibly innovative submissions--ideas ranging from a smart and improved steering wheel, smart cane, a rearview mirror that assists drivers who are color blind, and even a service animal robot and a concept for a car with sliding adjustable chairs to accommodate wheelchair passengers. Though Category 1 entries were received, unfortunately none met the criteria (sufficiently high TRL, capable of operating at highway speeds and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Therefore, only Category 2 prizes are being awarded. With the help of the advisors and judges, who have extensive industry and user experience, the Merlin Prize winners are:

 

1st Prize: Guardian: An In-Vehicle Emergency Detecting Suite ($6,000 USD)

2nd Prize: HawKar ($3,000 USD)

3rd Prize: Piloteer - A Personal Scooter for EVERYONE ($1,000 USD)

 

Congratulations to the winners! In addition to the cash prizes mentioned above, the Foundation is planning to launch the Annaleigh Grilo Accelerator program next year. Please be on the lookout for those invitations. 
 

Disabilities can make it challenging to access transportation. This can limit people’s opportunities for employment, education, healthcare, and a high quality of life. Here at Team Merlin, we’re looking to change that paradigm; and make transportation truly accessible for all. 

Thank you again to everyone who participated in the Prize! 


Winners have been selected!

Oct. 23, 2020, 12:28 p.m. PDT by Tomomi Menjo

The Merlin Prize for accessible, autonomous electric vehicles (A2EV) has concluded. We want to thank all of our participants and judges for sharing our mission and developing innovative and inclusive transportation solutions for communities of individuals with physical, sensory, and/or cognitive disabilities. With the help of the advisors and judges, who have extensive industry and user experience, the winners have been chosen! The Merlin team will be reaching out directly to the winners today, and we will make a public announcement with details on Monday, October 26, 2020. 
 

Thank you again to everyone who participated in the Merlin Prize. It has been an incredible experience to see the enthusiasm and passion in supporting the Merlin Mobility Foundation’s mission on making transportation accessible to all.


Forum 30
Teams 571
Resources
FAQ