Browse Publications Technical Papers 2005-01-1891
2005-04-11

Powered Control Systems 2005-01-1891

As long as there have been motor vehicles, there have been people with disabilities who desired to drive them. The technology used by these individuals to drive has been driven by technological changes in motor vehicles. Manual shift transmissions and high steering forces required individuals with lower extremity disabilities to be determined, dexterous and have strong upper extremities. As automatic transmissions became popular, hand controls became more functional and as power steering became more widely available, people who were not as muscular could steer with one hand when the other hand was using the hand control. With the advent of the modern van and wheelchair lifts in the 1970s, it became easier for drivers in wheelchairs to get to the drivers station. Fortunately for those who were not strong enough to transfer into a car, work was also being done to make the driving task easier. Modifications to the OEM power steering and power brakes to make them even easier to operate became available. Individuals who needed these modifications, however, could often not operate the vehicle safely if the engine lost power. Backup systems based upon battery power, vacuum etc., were developed to allow these drivers to maintain control of the vehicle even after engine or power steering belt failure. As OEM systems got more complex and under hood space became a premium, modifiers developed powered controls. which attach to (rather than modify) the OEM control systems and use external power to supplement the driver's ability to operate the controls. As OEM controls evolve to “fly by wire” systems, opportunities and challenges abound for “minor” adaptations to OEM systems to allow drivers with disabilities to operate the primary driving controls.

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