Our team’s project focuses around increasing the mobility and independence of people with physical limitations that limit their ability to drive. There are many causes of such limitations, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord and related injuries, and complex surgeries with long recovery times. For these populations, it can be hard to accomplish seemingly simple tasks such as getting groceries and other errands. Even for these populations with family and friends nearby, it can be burdensome to always need help to accomplish these everyday tasks. By providing a way for the physically limited to travel via car, we can provide a major social benefit for both them and their families that care for them.
While certain adaptive technologies do exist for the physically limited, most fall short from being useful and accessible to the general population of the physically limited. These solutions only target very specific problems, and can easily cost thousands of dollars. For example, Steering Developments, a leading provider of adaptive technologies, provides vehicle add-ons that cost an upward of $10,000. While these devices provide unique and customized ways of controlling a vehicle, they don’t provide much in the way of driving assistance - no adaptive cruise control, braking, land departure etc. In many cases, individuals end up buying an adapted vehicle for complex situations, which can cost $20,000 - $80,000.
There are a number of companies working on self-driving technologies. This trend is being set by companies such as Waymo and Tesla, who are working on fully autonomous self-driving technology, and are incrementally releasing self-driving technology on new cars. In addition, companies like Toyota and Hyundai are also active in this industry, supporting basic self-driving features for newer cars. However, for our beneficiary group to take advantage of this technology, they would have to purchase new cars, which as mentioned can cost $20,000 or more. As a result, even with existing accommodations, people with limitations currently are restricted in their ability to drive, which directly impacts their independence.
Our team plans on capitalizing on the self-driving movement in order to provide a adaptive vehicle solution that provides self-driving capabilities and features. DriveBox will be an affordable Level 2 self-driving automation kit that can be retrofitted onto cars, giving them basic self-driving capabilities. This includes auto braking and acceleration, lane centering, as well as basic spatial awareness, such as identifying cars in other lanes and forward collision detection. With this kit, people with physical limitations who normally have a hard time driving will have increased freedom and ability to drive. A majority of braking, steering, and acceleration can be handled by the system, making driving a less physically taxing and strenuous task. DriveBox intends on starting in the College Park area, and then expanding across the United States and eventually internationally.