The issue of mobility vehicles has been one that companies, individuals and organizations have been attempting to tackle for many years. Although the number of people who would require specialized vehicles in order to drive are minimal compared to the amount of fully capable drivers, there is still a vast need for something that suits the requirements of those in wheelchairs.
The average retrofitted vehicle goes for approximately a minimum of $60,000, which for many, is far out of the affordability range and can often be hard to access. But if a staff member of MacMaster Buick GMC has a say in it, that could change.
David Murphy, Business Relations Manager at MacMaster, has designed a concept wheelchair that could change the entire face of mobility vehicles and how they function for those who require adaptations to a vehicle for a wheelchair.
The wheelchair, which actually compact into a driver’s seat in the vehicle, rather than having to be stored in the back, was the brainchild of Mr. Murphy’s thesis project for his final year in college.
“I had this idea of developing a wheelchair that could be used as a driver’s seat, to help those in a wheelchair move around more independently,” he explained. “My teachers told me not to do it, that it was kind of insane and complicated, but I did it anyway. Most of the students developed their projects with the purpose of being just a thesis, but I was developing mine with the idea in mind that I would come back to it one day.”
After graduating in 2012 from the Bachelor Degree Industrial and Automotive Design program at Humber College, the project was set aside until recently.
“It was a six or seven month long project in school, but once I got out of college, I had to put it on the backburner,” said Mr. Murphy. “Recently, I came back to it, and I’ve started seriously looking into developing the project.”
The project is called Re-gain, with the idea that the wheelchair he is designing could help those with mobility issues to regain some of their independence.
He decided to take a leap of faith and send his concept to Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, to see if there was any way to look into the development through the organization’s mobility division. Shortly before he took that leap, Ms. Barra had shared an article on LinkedIn about the importance of tying careers with people’s passions.
“I sent her a brief summary of what I had, and explained to her that this was my passion, that this project and helping people who have mobility issues is something I want to follow through on,” he explained.
While that may seem like an unusual passion for someone who hasn’t had regular, direct exposure to the difficulties of mobility for those who are in wheelchairs, Mr. Murphy said that it has always been something that has been of interest to him.
“When I was ten, I was part of the Every Kids’ Park building committee with my mom and my sister, and so I met a lot of people first hand who have mobility issues,” he explained. “Seeing what a difference building a park that was as accessible to all made really stayed with me.”
After receiving his email, Ms. Barra forwarded the information to the GM Mobility Division, and within a week, Mr. Murphy found himself with an invitation to be introduced at the NMEDA (National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association) annual conference in Daytona, Florida. Mr. Murphy packed up his Buick and drove down. There, he had the opportunity to meet a number of people in the industry and present his concept.
He is now moving into the next steps, which include patenting the design and concept, and starting to work further on design, creating models, material research, and eventually, crash testing.
“I’ve been very careful about who I’ve shown the designs to, because I don’t want anyone to take them, and I’m not interested in selling them,” said Mr. Murphy. “I would rather develop it than sell the concept, because when you do it yourself, your ideas stay your ideas, and you are able to help people first-hand, rather than have someone do it for you.”
Written by Tabitha Wells