Aspiring to bring easier mobility to America’s 41 million citizens with disabilities, GM robotaxi subsidiary Cruise just unveiled the Cruise WAV, or Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle.
According to a post on X (formerly Twitter) by Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt, the Cruise WAV is “the world’s first self-driving, wheelchair accessible vehicle,” adding that adding that the engineering of the autonomous vehicle (AV) “is a distinct technical challenge that has never been done before.”
The transportation status quo is not only unsafe, it is inaccessible. Over 41 million Americans with disabilities deserve better transportation options.
— Kyle Vogt (@kvogt) September 14, 2023
The Cruise WAV is a variant of the Cruise Origin, a new autonomous vehicle (AV) built from the ground up as driverless shared transport. Ordinarily equipped with two rows of facing seats between sliding side doors, the Origin is modified with several features to transform it into the Cruise WAV.
For instance, the WAV features a deployable ramp to provide an easy way into the vehicle for riders in wheelchairs. The ramp is illuminated for all-hours, all-weather utility and includes pop-up rails to help prevent wheelchairs from rolling off the edge. A “kneeling” mode lowers the Cruise Origin WAV on its suspension during wheelchair ingress and egress, reducing the steepness of the access ramp.
Once the passenger is inside, there are two methods of securing the wheelchair safely for the ride. A height-adjustable dock built by Q’Straint is available for compatible wheelchairs. Alternately, a fellow rider can secure the chair with included straps and hooks.
The Cruise WAV also has a set of controls usable by handicapped passengers, including both physical switches and buttons inside the cabin and the option to use a smartphone as a controller. Functions include unlocking the wheelchair from the dock, stopping or starting the vehicle, opening and closing the doors, deploying or retracting the ramp, and calling for remote assistance.
Cruise is developing the Cruise WAV variant of the Cruise Origin in partnership with several companies and organizations. These include the aforementioned Q’Straint along with wheelchair-accessible van company BraunAbility, the latter of which has nearly half a century of design experience.
GM and Cruise have also used input from the disability community, as shown in the following video:
Cruise expects the Cruise WAV to begin closed-course testing in October 2023 and to have a pilot program operational sometime in 2024. The Cruise Origin is currently awaiting NHTSA approval for road use, but CEO Vogt expects that approval to arrive and Origin production to launch in the immediate future.