Whill showcased their Autonomous personal electric vehicle at their booth during the CES Innovation Awards that happened in January 2019. They team was really excited to be launching it at CES since they also won the Best of Innovation Award.
The need that they see is just providing that last mile of transportation for people. So a lot of people take a train on their commute or to get home. They get to the train station, but then, to get from the train to their office, or from the train to their home, sometimes it is a bit of a challenge. With their autonomous personal electric vehicle they can call one or summon one, tell it where to take them, and off they go.
Some of the features on the chair itself are very similar to what they had on previous models they launched for consumer purchases. For example, the Omniwheel or omnidirectional wheel which is made up of 24 individual rollers. This allows the vehicle to travel laterally without having to swivel like a traditional caster wheel. Hence it allows it to really take corners and also do really tough terrain like gravel, rocks, mulch etc and go up a pretty decent lip too; it can do a two inch curve.
How is it able to roll around autonomously?
The technology that’s in it allows it to do so. There’s stereo cameras on the front to sense anything around it. There’s sensors on the back as well so it can’t back or bump into anything. The first generation that they’re launching is going to be in an airport. They have some pilot tests that they are doing in airport. Using beacon technology they map the entire airport. In the device itself there’s a tablet so you can touch exactly where you want to go within that airport. So for example, I need to go to gate 40 to catch my flight: You just hit the button and it takes you.
Concerns: An excuse for people to be lazy
You can walk, you don’t have to use it. It is more for people who don’t have as much ability as you and I may have. For example, people that have a mobility challenge, hurt their knee, sprained an ankle, or people that are older and have arthritis and just can’t quite walk as far as they used to. It is meant to be accessible to everybody. In cities today you see bikes that you can rent for short distances, scooters that you can pick up and drop off wherever in a sort of a pay per use model, but not everybody is able-bodied enough to use those devices. Hence, this would be an option for them.
If they could add one feature to it that isn’t there already..
Somebody mentioned something to the Whill team during the CES that they hadn’t though about: if the device could help stand somebody up so they could be sort of eye to eye to other people, it would be amazing. Whill team thought this is an excellent idea so..who knows? Maybe it will be included in the official release!
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Read more about the autonomous personal electric vehicle here.
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