Concept car for disabled people
Position: graduate T.U. Delft @ Waaijenberg Mobility
My graduation project was commissioned by the company Waaijenberg. The Canta, a motorised vehicle for disabled people they introduced five years earlier, needed a review. I was hired to identify points for improvement and develop a concept for its successor.
To stimulate the mobility of disabled people, legislation in the Netherlands allows for use of this type of vehicle on the motorway, on cycle paths and even on sidewalks and pedestrian areas, were they are also free to park. No driving licence is required. Speed is restricted to 45 km/h.
Signals from the market suggested that the Canta could use improvements at some points, in order to meet more particular customer needs. Furthermore, the company wished to expand its business to foreign European markets. As the Canta was typically designed for The Netherlands (and in particular fitting Dutch regulations) the question remained what characteristics an export-Canta should have. Therefore, my assignment was to:
- Define a vision regarding market expansion in Western Europe.
- Develop, based on this vision, a problem analysis and a user survey, a new concept for a closed, motorized vehicle for disabled people.
I started with an in- and external analysis to obtain information and insights about all relevant aspects; about the company, its products, production and marketing processes, the markets, target groups, transport means for disabled people, competition, legislation and regulations in various countries, trends and developments in the car industrie, etc.
I conducted a user survey by means of a questionnaire, sent to a random selection of circa 200 Canta drivers. The response was over 60%. While the overall satisfaction was high (as much of 95% indicated to be content) the results showed clear points for improvement. In particular the accessibility (getting in and out the vehicle) scored relatively low. Main conclusions: the Canta was insufficiently sized and equipped for wheelchair transport. Also, due to the compression of air inside the small vehicle, the doors were difficult to close; many drivers mentioned they had to open a window first.
Based on all data I concluded that a next model should have an improved accessibility and interior space with a special focus on wheelchair users. I defined two product-market combinations; a longer version for The Netherlands (regarding the legal width restriction of 1.10 m for this vehicle type), and a wider version for export markets (enabling better seating comfort for two passengers). Subsequently, I worked out a program of requirements for the Dutch version.
Concept for accessibility
I explored different accessibility concepts, evaluated them and chose the one that best fitted the requirements; an open entrance over the full length of the cabin, to facilitate an easy entry for both the users and their luggage, including one wheelchair. Subsequently, I developed an innovative door system that could make this concept work: the folding wing door, of which I built a real size prototype.
The folding wing door solves a combination of ergonomic and technical issues. The most important benefits:
- The door in open position is completely out of the way for the user to get in, which is especially beneficial for wheelchair riders.
- The door needs a minimum of space to open (by means of the double hinge line), making it possible to park in narrow spaces and under low ceilings.
- As the closing path ends with a sliding motion, the air compression related problem with closing the door is solved.
- Opening of the entire door can be done with one hand, also while seated in a wheelchair. Due to a well balanced gas spring, it requires a minimum of force.