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A new system for creating wheelchair access into family cars through vehicle interior scanning and the design of a six degree of freedom system carrying the wheelchair through a complex 3D path

Final Report Summary - CARGO (A new system for creating wheelchair access into family cars through vehicle interior scanning and the design of a six degree of freedom system carrying the wheelchair through a complex 3D path)

Executive Summary:
Introduction to the CarGo Project:
The growth of the European wheelchair market has been extensive over recent years due to a number of factors. Primarily, the European population is ageing. By the year 2050 it is anticipated that the proportion of people over the age of 60 within Europe will be approximately 37%. Secondly, higher quality health care means more people are surviving previously fatal diseases and injuries, albeit with mobility problems. Lastly, the improved standard of living and lower cost products have made mobility aids, especially wheelchairs, available to more people. In Europe there are 750,000 users of powered wheelchairs and global sales are increasing at approximately 5% per annum. Against this background, the European Union Disability Strategy states that barriers for groups such as wheelchair users need to be identified and removed. The easier use of cars will increase freedom and independence for wheelchair users. Today, a number of expensive and permanently destructive adjustments have to be made on the vehicle to make the access and manoeuvring of the wheelchair inside the car possible. This makes adaptation of the vehicles expensive and limits the ability of users to re-sell the vehicle. Furthermore, due to the technology employed on existing conversions, only tall van-based cars have been successfully converted, restricting the choice of models available to buyers.
To solve this problem, our consortium intends to develop the CarGo concept, to permit greater numbers of wheelchair users to gain access to a wide range of popular family cars by developing a wheelchair and accompanying electrically powered lifting system, capable of lifting the user and wheelchair into the passenger seat space of a car through a complex, optimised path and without physical input from the user or helper. The system will, moreover, impose no permanent modifications to the vehicle, drastically increasing the resale value of the car.

CarGo is a €1.2Million project supported and part funded by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission. The project will last for 21/2 years from 1st December 2010 to 31st May 2013 and involves partners from four EU countries.


Project Context and Objectives:
The main objective of the project is to develop a system which will allow wheelchair users, to be lifted into the passenger seat position in a wider range of popular family cars, as Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) giving access to a non-driving position accounting for 85% of WAV sales. To retain the re-sale value of the car, the system will be developed such that it does not require any permanent modifications to the vehicle body or electrics. The system will consist of a new wheelchair designed to join with a carriage, mounted on a frame, which will be bolted across the internal width of the car. The frame will support the moving carriage, which will pick up the chair and user, carrying them into the car through an arc of motion which will allow them to enter smaller door apertures than any system on the market today. Once in position within the vehicle, the carriage and chair will be secured into position, with the same safety level as a standard car seat. A path optimisation model for front door vehicle entry will also be produced for a wide range of vehicles to provide our users with the maximum vehicle choice.
The system will be sturdy and smooth in operation, designed with no manual lifting input required, using electrically powered actuators to create all movements. The user will be restrained in the wheelchair during entry and exit, and the foot position on the footplate will be controlled to ensure minimum disturbance and maximum comfort during the motion. The wheelchair will be used as the seat within the vehicle to save storage space in the car, and hence the wheelchair will be made suitable for everyday use outside of the vehicle.
Project Results:
WP No. Work Package Title Main Work Package Objectives Start Month End Month

WP1 Design and development research for project plan - Build a database of 3D data describing the envelope of the body and wheelchair

- Build a database of space envelopes available in the interior of the 10 most popular family cars in 3 categories

- Plot motion paths to move the body position volumes inside the vehicle swept volumes M1 M7
WP2 Fixed frame and vehicle mounting plates design - Mechanical design of the frame(s) required to support the carriage as it moves
- Trial fit the prototype parts to prove fitting suitability and prove scanned interior envelope and fixing position recording technique
- Design the travel lock mechanism, and produce a prototype of the whole plate and frame components for validation
M7 M12
WP3 Design multi-axis carriage - Mechanical design of the carriage capable of mounting to the frame and lifting the chair and user
- Specify and purchase linear and rotary actuators to produce the movements required, as determined by the path plotting software
- Produce a working prototype of the complete actuator and wiring harness assembly and use the prototype to prove operating and principle and power requirements M8 M12
WP4 Manual wheelchair and hitch - Mechanical design of a manual wheelchair for use with the vehicular system and suitable for everyday use
- Design and develop a mechanism for mounting the wheels to the chassis of the wheelchair such that they can be compactly repositioned to the rear of the chair
- Design and prove an attachment mechanism for attaching the wheelchair to the moving carriage which is auto-engaging and easily released
- Manufacture a prototype wheelchair to prove the functions of the wheel positioning and pickup hitch mechanisms
- Validate the structure of the wheelchair and pickup hitch by loaded tests M13 M17
WP5 Control system and testing - Write a ladder logic program to convert the actuator motion requirements from the path plotting software into sensor and motor outputs.
- Write the software and install control hardware and sensors to allow autonomous operation of the system
- Design and produce a prototype hand control for the system and validate the automatic operation of the complete system with use of the hand control only M18 M22
WP6 End user trials and validation - Validate and demonstrate system operation under working conditions in a lab based environment, to include cyclic testing to ensure accuracy of operation over a number of cycles under expected operating conditions
- Install the prototype system in the vehicle for which it was designed, proving the integration of the motion components, locks, and hand control and power supply.
- Prove operating principle by operating the complete system with wheelchair and user M21 M27
WP7 Dissemination and IP related activities - Protect IPR – apply for patents where appropriate
- Dissemination – ensure that project results are broadcasted appropriately
- Develop a future funding strategy
- Exploitation – ensure that project results are exploited to gain maximum benefits for the consortium M18 M30
WP8 Project and consortium management - To successfully manage the project and consortium in a professional manner, which will result in the project being delivered on time and to budgets within the contract of the European Commission
- To produce all required management and technical reports, to submit on time all required deliverables and cost claims, and for inter consortium communications to ensure the smooth running of the CarGo project. M1 M30

Potential Impact:
Several car mobility solutions exist but all rely on a helper to carry out manual operations during the wheelchair loading, and to remove portions of the wheelchair and stow them away elsewhere. Due to a lack of degrees of freedom in these systems, they are still limited in the number of vehicles which can be successfully converted. By making a new design of wheelchair with moving/folding components, and increasing the degrees of freedom available, we will reduce the helper effort required to almost nothing while increasing the range of vehicles suitable for alteration. Our solution will be designed to be very compact, impacting the available storage space in the vehicle as little as possible.

This will also impact on users by improving their quality of life, increasing their mobility and giving them more independence. As well as being very cost effective compared with existing wheelchair access solutions, the CarGo wheelchair will allow users to have access to a greater variety of vehicles and greater self-esteem. The newly acquired independence will also positively impact on care-provid

List of Websites:

www.cargo-fp7.eu

Contact Details: The Project Manager for the CarGo Project is: Michael Morris

UK Health and Environment Research Institute, Pera Innovation Park, Nottingham Road, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, LE13 0PB Tel: +44 (0)1664 501501 Email: michael.morris@uk-heri.com