Soon, 'self-adjusting' electric wheelchairs to detect hazardous terrain

Washington, Jan 4 (ANI): Life may soon get a little easier for those stuck to wheelchairs. Researchers are working on technology that will enable electric-powered wheelchairs to detect hazardous terrain and automatically adjust their control settings to move more safely.

Emmanuel Collins of the of Florida State's Center for Intelligent Systems said that a device known as a laser line striper, originally developed for military use, has been adapted to classify terrain conditions so the wheelchair control system can self-adjust.

"I'm inspired by the idea of applying technology originally meant for the battlefield to improve the quality of everyday life for injured soldiers and others," said Collins.

Engineers had previously developed automatic terrain-sensing controls for military robotic vehicles, and several four-wheel-drive automobiles now on the market include such controls for improved safety.

Collins' team, working with colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh, began experiments this year to add instrumentation based on current driving control systems.

The new technology is designed to enable an electric-powered wheelchair to detect hazardous terrain and implement safe driving strategies while avoiding wheel slip, sinkage or vehicle tipping. ollins said that, to his knowledge, no one else is working on this type of application.

Army Maj. Kevin Fitzpatrick, of Walter Reed's wheelchair clinic, said, "This technology will provide electric-powered wheelchair users with an increased degree of independence that may significantly increase their ability to participate in recreational and functional activities."(ANI)

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