Researchers from MIT, National University of Singapore, and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) have developed hardware and software to control self-driving cars and golf carts. Now the same technology has been integrated into a mobility scooter, allowing disabled and elderly folks to scoot around without contstantly operating the controls.
Healthy people walk around without spending too much time or attention on the task. It’s almost sub-conscious for most of us. A typical motorized scooter, on the other hand, requires watching the road, anticipating the angle at which to attack curbs, and avoiding other people walking by. Indoors, this can be even more challenging due to tighter spaces and more people walking nearby.
The smart scooter manages the navigation and obstacle avoidance all on its own, even indoors, as recently conducted tests have shown. This can be a serious benefit for disabled people wishing to live independent lives, as the technology takes over nearly the entire aspect of personal mobility. One can imagine the scooter automatically loading itself into a van and the self-driving van then taking the person to their destination.
An interesting aspect of the software that powers the scooter is that it learns as it’s being used. This accumulated knowledge of various environments and how to negotiate them can be shared among other scooters, essentially improving their performance without relying on human interference.
Here’s a video demonstrating the self-driving scooter in action: