Autio Chief Executive Officer Woody Sears Talks Accessible Sightseeing, Autonomous Vehicle Tech, More In Interview


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Steven Aquino

Santa Barbara-based startup Autio has a unique conceit for its product: provide drivers with what it describes on its website as “professionally edited and narrated audio vignettes” of places and landmarks as they drive through them. The company, which was co-founded by Kevin Costner, delivers these experience through an app currently only available on iOS (an Android version is coming soon). The stories are narrated by such celebrities as Phil Jackson and John Lithgow.

As Autio says on its website, “nearby stories automatically play at the perfect time to answer the questions we all wonder as the odometer turns.” They exist to help answer common questions such as “I wonder how this town came to be?” From an accessibility perspective, Autio has come up with a clever and more modern approach to sightseeing on road trips. As a Blind person who spent vacation last month on a two-and-a-half week road trip through the Pacific Northwest and into British Columbia, I can attest to having many questions about the myriad small towns and other stops my partner and I went through our travels.

Whereas constantly looking at my phone causes eye strain and fatigue—not to mention induce inattention to the world around me—had I known about Autio previously, the app would’ve proved useful as we drove past such noteworthy things as Mount Shasta. Beyond getting information from the car, it’s also true even with the Magnifier app on my iPhone, signage at visitors centers and rest stops often sorely lack in readability.