Add this to the list of autonomous vehicles – the self-driving wheelchair. It can be summoned with a smart app.
The Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, or SMART, developed and deployed the first unit at Singapore’s Changi General Hospital in September 2016, where it successfully navigated the hospital’s hallways. It is the latest in a string of autonomous vehicles made by SMART, including a golf cart, an electric taxi, and most recently, a scooter that zipped more than 100 MIT visitors around on tours in 2016.
“The SMART self-driving wheelchair has been in development since January 2016,” says Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and a principal investigator in the SMART Future Urban Mobility research group. Today, SMART has two wheelchairs in Singapore and two wheelchairs at MIT being tested in a variety of settings, says Rus.
The robot’s computer uses data from three lidars to make a map. A localization algorithm then determines where the smart chair is on the map. The chair’s six wheels lend stability, and the chair is designed to make tight turns and fit through normal-size doorframes.