The Design of a Smart Controller for Electric Powered Wheelchairs

B. Salatin, G. Grindle, H. Wang, and R.A. Cooper (USA)


Intelligent machines, advanced wheelchair systems, and controller


Electric powered wheelchair (EPW) controllers have not seen substantial improvement since the introduction of the microprocessor. There are no features that warn the driver of danger or help keep the EPW under control in adverse conditions such as slipping or tipping. With an estimated 300,000 EPWs in use in the United States and the population of older adults increasing rapidly, the need for safer control systems for EPWs is a priority. This paper presents in detail the electronic, mechanical, and software design used in developing a smart controller for EPWs. A single board computer provides the computational power and storage space needed to execute normal operations, complex safety algorithms, and extensive data logging. An array of sensors connects to the computer, providing feedback on velocity, inertia, caster angle, and obstacle range. A rugged aluminum enclosure protects the electronics and provides connectors for all the sensors. A real-time operating system is used as the basis for programming. The software architecture uses a 3 level hierarchical structure that organizes tasks based on periodicity, priority, and computational load. The goal of this project is to demonstrate what can be done with an EPW to enhance the mobility, participation, and safety of its occupant.

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