All devices to drive will be built into the wheels, the auto group said, adding the development of autonomous wheelchairs began in 2020 on the suggestion of a startup and member of ZER01NE, an open platform founded by Hyundai Motor and its affiliate, Kia Motors, to support innovative individual creators and startups.
Compared to manual wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs that can be controlled using a joystick or other devices are handier for moving on the streets but they are not suited for indoor operations as they are larger and can easily damage people or obstacles. Autonomous wheelchairs that can detect obstacles, select routes and move to a chosen destination have been tested for use at hospitals and airports. However, high costs have hampered commercialization.
The auto group said it would review the utility, technology adequacy, and shortcomings of self-driving wheelchairs and support improvements in ZER01NE's technology development. Kia will provide a mobility service that combines modified multi-purpose vehicles and self-driving wheelchairs for the disabled. "We will try to provide mobility solutions that allow everyone to move safely and freely," Kia's management strategy division head Shin Dong-soo said in a statement on May 27.
Seoul Museum of Art (SEMA) and Seoul National University Hospital in Bundang would provide test sites and support the planning of demonstration programs. "I hope this cooperation will be an opportunity to increase the accessibility of the weak in mobility at public places," SEMA director Beck Jee-sook was quoted as saying.
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