Our goal is to design an autonomous vehicle that is fully accessible for wheelchair users. We are attempting to implement features that are not widely available, but could have huge impacts on the lives of these individuals. As a part of this initiative, we are also working on implementing features to improve the range of movements available for wheelchair users. Some examples of this would be lateral movements and a lifting mechanism to allow for a standing position to be reached.

The Background

This project started in 2020 with the goal of developing a fully autonomous vehicle fitted for a person with increased physical limitations. With the aging population, we believe that there will be an increased need for this product as it will allow disabled and elderly individuals the ability to retain certain aspects of their independence. An individual who requires help into and out of the car and is not comfortable driving, but is able to complete tasks with little assistance once they reach their destination would benefit from this product.

The Rollout

The project currently has a mechanical group and a systems group. The mechanical group is working on implementing features to the wheelchair and the car that would improve the wheelchair user’s experience and comfort. The systems group is working on the automation to ensure that the car is able to work autonomously for a person with restricted mobility while obeying the traffic laws and traveling as safely as possible. Our goal is to later implement the work of both teams into a single vehicle so that a person who requires a wheelchair is able to have safe and accessible transport.

The Impact

The funding will be jointly managed and used by both teams with the approval of the supervising professors (Dr. Xiao Huang, Dr. Mehdi Eshaghi and Dr. Richard Dansereau). For the 2023-2024 school year, the mechanical team will be using funding to build an automated ramp and an automated transfer device from a wheelchair to the crash tested driver’s seat. The automated transfer device will be attached to the wheelchair, so that it can also be used for other applicable situations. The systems team will be using their funding the further their goal of producing an autonomous vehicle that will provide safe transportation for a person with restricted mobility.

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