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Autonomous Wheelchairs: The Next Big Thing
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Autonomous Wheelchairs: The Next Big Thing

When age catches up, mobility can become a serious concern, so imagine how much worse it is for a person who is in a wheelchair and already faces mobility issues. Luckily, a new project by MIT researchers is now providing a ray of hope to the elderly as well as the disabled. Autonomous vehicles that drive themselves are about to become the next best thing, not merely because they are an incredible innovation, but because they aim to better the lives of numerous people across the globe.

If you thought age was going to slow you down, you thought wrong. This new invention is about to take things to all new heights. Having started with the idea of creating autonomous vehicles so that aging people would not have trouble moving around, MIT researchers installed the same technology into wheelchairs to come up with wheelchairs that drive themselves. Think you heard enough? Think again!

The Idea Behind the Innovation

For a long while, the notion of vehicles that drive themselves was expected to have a revolutionizing impact on the markets. However, the time and technology that has gone into the making of this autonomous wheelchair does not aim to reach out merely to the regular customers like other autonomous vehicles do, but instead, it sought to create a different kind of revolution.

It began when Daniela Rus, a researcher at MIT, began working on MIT’s new wheelchair that would drive itself. She had noticed that there weren’t always enough staff members to assist the disabled in retirement communities and this caused a deep concern that ignited the idea of a wheelchair that drove itself.

The main idea behind the wheelchair was to provide greater independence to aging people and those that were disabled. After all, old age can be quite debilitating for any individual and, add to that a disability, and a person would have a hard time getting around. This was what sparked the idea for these Autonomous Wheelchairs.

What Drives the Wheelchair?

The wheelchair is very simple to maneuver, as it is fitted with LiDAR sensors which enable it to be used like an ordinary car. Of course, just like a self-driving car, a person needs to drive the vehicle in the area for the sensors to get an idea of the place.

The moment this is done, the user needs to select the location where he wishes to go and put it into the map and the chair will start to move. While moving, the sensors focus on avoiding dynamic obstacles that may surface, like people or furniture that has been moved in the way.

Of course, the project still has a long way to go. Rus and her team are working to improve the technology that drives these wheelchairs so that they will also be capable of traversing outdoor locations and will have the ability to predict better. All in all, given the position the project is currently in, it goes without saying that these autonomous wheelchairs are certainly going to be the next best thing in town.  

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