Cars & Driving Adaptations of the Future for Wheelchair Users
12th June 2017
Technology in cars and driving adaptations is a rapidly expanding industry which is great news for people who may have mobility issues but still want to enjoy the experience of driving around the English countryside on a summers day. After the exciting launch of NEVS new self-driving CES Asia last week here at Mark Bates we decided to have a look at the motor industry to investigate what’s new to the market and what the future holds for wheelchair motorists.
Currently there are many revolutionary adaptations new to the market that overcome many mobility issues people across the UK face. Many have trouble accessing the pedals to accelerate and break but modern advances in car technology mean that this is no longer an issue. One popular method of non-pedal driving is installing a KO gas ring. Manufacturers such as KIVI have greatly improved on their KO (gas ring) car alteration. A KO is fundamentally a gas ring over the steering wheel relocating the function of the pedals to the wheel allowing people with partial or lack of functionality in their lower limbs to drive. It can be installed in cars with automatic gear, sequential transmission or automatic clutch. The latest innovation of this technology is the Kivi KO Wireless Control which now uses a push/pull function to make breaking and acceleration even easier. Wireless control can also enable a power saving acceleration mode for more economical driving.
Another option is using a handle for breaking and acceleration. Like a gas ring, the LT12 functions by transferring breaking and accelerating from the pedals to the upper body. The handle is placed on the right of the steering column (not obstructing the airbag opening). The mechanical portions of the device are placed outside the dashboard so that they are not in the way when entering and exiting the car or loading items such as a wheelchair, while also secured as nearby as possible to the lower side of the dash. The hand control has two functions: by moving the slider toward oneself accelerates, while by pushing the lever downwards brakes. Buttons for auxiliary functions (such as indicators, lights and wipers) can also be integrated.
One of the most innovative cars new to the market for wheelchair users is the new Soul eMotion. The aim of the Kia designers was to allow wheelchair users to drive in complete independence and luxury. Getting inside the car in your own wheelchair is made easy. Light pressure to open button on the remote control lowers the car while also opening the backdoor and ramp. Located in the front of the vehicle are two tie downs where the driver seat is usually located for both electric and manual wheelchairs or the original seat. Other features also include a rear pneumatic suspension system so the car always keeps the ideal asset and height from the ground.
Undoubtedly the biggest impact on all motorists in the future will be the influence of self-driving cars coming to the market. Self-driving cars will revolutionise our roads and allow people who would normally not be able to drive long-distance to do so independently with ease. While many dismiss self-driving cars as a far-off fantasy, manufactures have other ideas. Honda has stated that they want their self-driving cars on city streets by 2025 and autonomous vehicles with no human back up will be tested on public roads next year. In terms of ideology there are two main schools of thought. Manufacturers such as BMW, who sell cars based on an enjoyable driving experience, have put a focus on self-driving to feel like a natural driving experience. At the other end of the spectrum there is Google, with the Waymo who are aiming for more of a chauffeur feel and use a more advanced mapping system to achieve this. However, perhaps the most extreme idea for self-driving is NEVS CES Asia. The CES Asia is a self-driving electric car that uses wireless charging and build in screens to the side glass. However, the most important feature for customers for mobility issues is the cars massive doors which allow seamless ingress and egress and the flexibility of the interior in which the seats can be moved around to create more space using a mobile app.
With all the new car modifications and advances in technology in the next few years’ people can enjoy driving on the road regardless of their mobility level.