A device developed in Spain jointly by Ficosa Internacional, IBV, CEIT and TECNUN, University of Navarra, allows people with reduced mobility or weakness in the upper torso to drive a vehicle using only one hand.
During the 13th EAEC European Automotive Congress, the Institute of Biomechanics of Valencia (IBV) has presented a prototype vehicle driving control that eliminates the traditional concept of a steering wheel and replaces it with an easy-to-use device for a great number of people.
The prototype allows the driver to control and guide a vehicle, accelerate, change gears and brake with one hand and arm. To reach this design, researchers at the IBV, led by José Solaz, discussed the needs of people with reduced mobility or certain muscle weakness that prevents them from managing a traditional steering wheel. Also according Solaz, 'when designing a new system we wanted to eliminate from our concept mechanical technology and apply technology based on electronics because it offers more versatile solutions.' After analysing all the available options on the market such as 'concept cars' or electric vehicles, the design finally submitted by the IBV is an ergonomic device, handy for a large number of drivers and has been improved by adding motors that provide the driver the same sensations as those of a traditional wheel.
José Solaz highlighted 'the ergonomics of the prototype and the fact that it takes into account the thresholds of strength and coordination capacity of users.' To Solaz 'these aspects are essential for an innovative concept that has to be perceived as convenient, easy to use and as safe as traditional controls.'
Another feature of the new device is that a system has been added to mimic the traditional perceptions of driving so that drivers can obtain the same information that the mechanical transmission of a vehicle provides. And besides, this is an inclusive design 'as the control is intended to be a future vehicle control device for a wide range of ages. People with lower limb disabilities are one of the most benefited groups, but the design of this prototype is suitable for all types of people.'
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