An engineering student is helping envision a self-driving future for people with disabilities

The weekend she was supposed to be presenting a plan to improve transit service for people with disabilities using self-driving shuttles, Jen Schlegel was confronting her own problems getting around.

The Ohio State University engineering student had opted for a rolling walker over the wheelchair she sometimes uses, but nonetheless she was late.

“The running joke among my friends is that if you can’t find me, I’m waiting on either a bus or an elevator,” Schlegel said…

And in college, she turned her attention to transportation because it was consuming so much of her day and her money. She developed her plan for an automated paratransit system in the hope it would one day be more reliable and more humane than today’s bus networks.

The presentation eventually led to an internship at a division of the Ohio Department of Transportation tasked with preparing the state for a driverless future. Her boss, Rich Granger, said he had heard about Schlegel before the event and made a point to keep in touch after it was over.