In America and many other countries, driving is a part of life without which many things are impossible to do. Following injuries to the legs and feet, patients hope to recover their ability to drive more than just about anything else. The problem is that physicians don’t have objective methods to judge how well someone can operate the pedals to control a car in the real world. Students at Bucknell University’s bioengineering program have heard of this problem and developed a device to address this specific need.
Currently, patients are often subjected to a few exercises, such as walking, a leg press, and range of motion routines, to evaluate their abilities. These, though, do not replicate how people really use their legs and feet during driving.
The new device that the Bucknell team built has a car seat, steering wheel, and pedals. The pedals behave much like real ones, with the braking one replicating pressures that a driver would experience during hard braking situations. The system measures the patient’s performance and is designed to help provide a more objective assessment of how well a person is expected to be able to drive.
The device is now going to a clinical trial at Geisinger’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in Danville, Pa.