Shared Control Wheelchair for Cognitively Impaired Older Adults

A Smart Wheelchair That Allows the Driver to Share Control

Lead: Ian Mitchell & William Miller (UBC, Occupational Science & Occupation Therapy)

motorized wheelchair
Mitchell's Wheelchair Prototype

Power mobility (through cars, scooters, power wheelchairs) can improve participation in daily life, increasing quality of life, adding ‘life to years’ for an aging population. However physical, perceptual and cognitive limitations, associated with aging, may prevent an individual from acquiring or maintaining skills necessary to drive a powered mobility device. 

The purpose of this study is to two-fold.  On the technical side, we aim to develop and assess collaborative control systems allowing a driver to share control of the power mobility with an intelligent control agent, with the intent of allowing aging drivers to safely and effective control power mobility devices despite physical, perceptual or cognitive limitations due to aging.  On the clinical side, we aim to develop and assess training programs using the collaboratively controlled power mobility, with the intent to improve driving performance and safety for aging drivers.

The proposed research comes at a particularly opportune time, given the fast pace of development in smart cars and smart wheelchairs.  Our contributions are aimed at facilitating transfer of these new technologies in the aging population.