Thursday, December 23, 2021

A Project for Musk

Tesla has been working for years on self-driving cars. A simpler project with a smaller but still  significant market would be a self-driving wheelchair. The idea occurred to me talking with a woman whose husband suffered a serious stroke a few years ago, leaving him with a functional mind but imperfect control over his body. A motorized wheelchair would let him move around, but his vision is too unreliable to make that safe. If he could just tell his wheelchair to take him to the home office, or the dining room,  or ...

It should be much easier to make than a self-driving car, since a house is a much less complicated environment than the highway network — and it could be programmed to the map of a particular house. I haven't found any figure for total sales of motorized wheelchairs but there seem to be a lot of firms selling or renting them, so my guess is at least tens of thousands. And it would make people more confident in the ability of Tesla to solve the harder problem of a self-driving car.


At 11:05 AM, December 23, 2021, Blogger Karl said...

Given what I've seen of the Boston Robotics robots, combine the self-driving wheelchairs with chairs that can walk. These would be able to go up and down flights of stairs, across rugged terrain, and over obstacles left on the floor.
Such devices might also be able to respond to cues such as the rider leaning in one direction or another, should the hands not be terribly useful.

At 5:01 PM, December 23, 2021, Blogger Andrew Clough said...

Probably not. The market is small, the problem is moderately harder and different (driving a wheelchair up to the edge of a table just doesn't have a car equivalent), and the price and power draw are much larger with respect to those of a wheelchair than they are with respect to a car.

At 4:18 AM, December 24, 2021, Blogger naivetheorist said...

you must be unfamiliar with the actual use of a power chair. i have been using one for over a decade and in my experience, a self-driving power chair would be as dangerous as a self-driving car (although it would do less damage to property and person). Turning driving control of any mobile device over to a computer is a really bad idea.


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