Wheelchair users need the ability to roll across many different types of terrain, not just smooth flooring or surfaces. Outside, steep hills or ramps, snow, sticky mud or thick and loose gravel can present challenges to someone using lightweight wheels to get around.
Researchers at Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering have been studying and testing new technology that will detect different and difficult types of terrain and automatically adjust traction and control settings on a wheelchair so that movement can proceed safely.
This technology, a laser-line striper, was originally developed for military use. Engineers have been able to alter the technology to allow wheelchair control systems to identify and classify different rough or uneven surfaces and then self-adjust while on the move. Military robotic vehicles and some consumer four-wheel drive vehicles make use this technology.
Bringing this technology into the mainstream has been a team effort.
Professor Rory Cooper has been a wheelchair used since 1980, when he served in the Army. He was a bronze-medal winner at the 1988 Paralympic Games in Seoul, and he’s been recognized nationally for his spinal cord injury research.
Cooper, Florida A&M-FSU College of Engineering and labs at the Veterans Administration Center in Pittsburgh (among the top researchers of wheelchair technology in the U.S.) are working to make the laser-line striper standard equipment for motorized wheelchairs and commercially available within a few years.
Van Products salutes this initiative. We also want to provide solutions for wheelchair users. If you need to purchase or rent a wheelchair van, or simply look for expertise in choosing between many options, contact us.