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Smart Wheelchair Tech Wins Toyota Mobility Challenge

Putting technology to work for those who need it most
#Toyota #tech

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As it transitions beyond being a traditional carmaker, Toyota is championing a much broader range of mobility technologies.

The Challenge

A case in point: Toyota Mobility Foundation’s Mobility Unlimited Challenge, which the company created in 2017 with Nesta Challenges to drive innovation in assistive technologies and enhance the mobility and independence of people with lower-limb paralysis.

More than 80 teams from 28 countries competed in the inaugural three-year event. Entrants were evaluated on innovation, functionality, usability, quality, safety, affordability and market potential.

And the Winner is…

Phoenix Instinct, a U.K.-based developer of smart wheelchairs.

The Tech

Phoenix Instinct CEO Andrew Slorance

The 5-year-old company took home the $1 million first prize for the “Phoenix i” wheelchair, which can automatically adjust its center of gravity to enhance maneuverability.

The lightweight wheelchair—thanks to a carbon fiber frame—also features a smart braking system to help protect users on steep hills. A power assist function is designed to minimize strain and reduce vibrations.

What’s Next?

Phoenix will use the prize to further develop and commercialize the technology.

"The funding we received through the challenge allowed us to prove smart technology makes for an easier to use and safer wheelchair with the potential for a suite of new features,” says CEO and founder Andrew Slorance, who suffered a spinal injury in 1983.

Why It Matters

"Mobility means freedom. It means liberation from being limited in life,” asserts Philip Craven, a member of Toyota’s board of directors and former head of the International Paralympic Committee. “When we are free to move, we are able to fully participate in society."

Big Picture

The World Health Organization estimates there are 250,000 to 500,000 new cases of spinal cord injuries every year.

Finding new ways to innovate and put technologies to work to assist those in need is more than just a worthy cause. It’s essential…and we all need to be up to the challenge.

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