Lidar-Equipped Autonomous Wheelchairs Roll Out in Singapore and Japan

No more waiting for an orderly to see you out, or an attendant to see you to your gate

3 min read
Photo: Panasonic
The Uber of Wheelchairs: At Haneda Airport in Tokyo, people with disabilities will be able to hail autonomous wheelchairs using a smartphone app that lets them select a destination, sit back, and relax.
Photo: Panasonic

Autonomous vehicles can add anew member to their ranks—the self-driving wheelchair. This summer, two robotic wheelchairs made headlines: one at a Singaporean hospital and another at a Japanese airport.

The Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, or SMART, developed the former, first deployed in Singapore’s Changi General Hospital in September 2016, where it successfully navigated the hospital’s hallways. It is the latest in a string of autonomous vehicles made by SMART, including a golf cart, an electric taxi, and most recently, a scooter that zipped more than 100 MIT visitors around on tours in 2016.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions
This photo shows a parked Land Rover that is plugged into a Tesla charging station.

This vintage Land Rover Defender has been refitted with an electric powertrain, one originally designed for a Tesla.

E.C.D. Automotive Design

From the outside, this Land Rover Defender looks like any other example of the postwar British classic that conquered the African outback—and the automotive world’s heart. But when I step on the accelerator, my own heart jumps. The Defender charges like a lioness on a wildebeest’s scent, slaying 60 miles per hour (almost 100 kilometers per hour) in about 5 seconds. That acceleration is so out of character for this doughty old truck, and so fun, that I’m forced to do it again.

Clearly, that’s no lazy Rover diesel chugging below the hood—or even a Chevrolet V-8, a current go-to engine for vintage-car fans seeking a contemporary edge. This Defender, known for raiding tombs, has raided Tesla’s temple of tech.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}