The future can be an exciting prospect, especially regarding vehicles. They’re always being updated and improved.
There are even museums dedicated to the history of the vehicle, charting the paths of makes, models, and manufacturers through history. Needless to say, the innovations have come an immensely long way since their inception, and they have plenty further to go still.
One area often overlooked in history books is wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs). These versions of vehicles have given a tremendous amount of autonomy and agency to disabled people, granting a new lease on life in many cases.
Where are they going in the future? What exciting changes are we most likely to see? Let’s discuss the possibilities down below.
Greater Numbers of Home Demonstrations
The future is becoming more home-based. Whether working from home or simply spending more leisure time there, more people are starting to appreciate the comforts of their abodes.
WAVs have an increasing role to play in that sphere, too, particularly regarding vehicle selection. People used to visit dealerships or make appointments elsewhere to view WAV stock and discuss what was possible. Now, all of this can be done without you or anyone else ever leaving the home – and rightly so!
For example, Allied Mobility happily visits people’s homes to deliver free, no-obligation demonstrations of the WAVs people are interested in. They break down features and price points and answer prospective customers’ questions. It doesn’t matter where anyone lives – they’ll be there to discuss their range of rear-access vehicles and provide as much information as possible so prospective buyers are as well-informed as possible.
Granted, these services aren’t exactly new or to be. In the future, though, we wouldn’t be surprised to see more people make use of free, no-obligation at-home demonstrations. It’s quick and convenient and fittingly makes WAVs even more accessible to all.
Further Customisation Options
Home demonstrations personalise the potential of WAVs. But customisation plays a role in those stronger feelings being felt, too.
Is it enough for a WAV to just be accessible and reach a bare minimum threshold? The answer is no, for all regular vehicles can be customised in many ways. Whether changes are for better aesthetics or functionality, it gives road users more control over their driving experience.
For WAVs, though, the focus for improvements will probably be on functionality developments, given the nature of the vehicles. Further customisations WAV manufacturers might explore more in future include:
- Making flexible seating arrangements possible.
- Providing more innovative assistive technology.
- Guaranteeing interfaces on devices are more user-friendly.
- Ensuring different types of wheelchairs can be effortlessly accommodated.
- Automating ramps and lifts.
- Improving suspension systems for greater comfort.
WAVs are more than just four wheels and an engine. The manufacturers that understand that can elevate the potential of these vehicles to greater heights.
Investment in Electric Variations
As you’re probably aware already, the sale of diesel and petrol cars is still poised to end by 2030 as part of the UK government’s plans to reach Net Zero. WAVs are not exempt from this.
There’s an interesting challenge for manufacturers here. For wheelchair access to be possible, the floors of these vehicles are usually lowered. Such can make conversions more challenging, as the converters are typically installed beneath that floor. Medium and larger WAVs shouldn’t encounter too many issues, but for the smaller models (which tend to be more popular amongst buyers), these factors do present a question mark.
Consequently, there may be some engineering logistics to work out here. One thing is for sure, though; the eWAV will be increasingly available as 2030 looms ever nearer. Given the preference for smaller models of WAV, manufacturing lines may need to be retooled to meet the demand for electric versions, but hopefully, viable solutions will be found.
Larger Scope for Self-Driving WAVs
Automated vehicles (AVs) are currently being developed though utilised with utmost caution. They won’t be wildly available for everyday drivers for quite some time.
That said, things are changing in this space. We’ve seen stories from the states of ride-hailing services predominantly using the technology. The UK is also getting in on the action, increasing investment in these areas for deserving firms. It could only be a matter of time before AVs are fine-tuned and widely used.
But where does that leave WAVs? After all, many of the pioneering companies behind self-driving vehicles may claim they want to make transport easier for all, but very seldom are the AVs being tested on wheelchair accessible. There’s a slither of hypocrisy running through the entire system.
So, it’s reasonable to assume that WAVs and AVs will be misaligned for the foreseeable future. However, it’s easy to see areas of overlap, given the shared goals of making driving more accessible for all. The minds behind AVs likely won’t turn down the great business potential of the WAV market, and calls for more inclusivity could build as AVs become a more realistic prospect for the masses.
We’ve mentioned government investments a couple of times already. However, though we’ve given specific examples, there’s a ‘big picture’ to account for here.
Accessibility used to be an afterthought. Today, it’s hoped to be a key pillar of a more inclusive UK society. For example, it’s now a matter of law for workplaces to be fitted with wheelchair accessible ramps and for eligible buildings to have lifts installed too.
It can be expected that more regulations will come to play in areas we’ve already covered (i.e. the need for AV innovators to pay more attention to WAVs) and elsewhere. Accessibility standards and guidelines are always being reviewed in every sector, and vehicle design will be no different.
The government may also look into subsidies and incentives to nudge industry figures in the right direction rather than immediately implementing hardline policies. The idea would likely be to promote the development of WAVs in a manner that feels more positive and organic. Of course, this is all just speculation, but the law often shifts to accommodate industry changes and needs.
Stronger Collaboration Links
We’ve covered a lot about the potential future of WAVs already. That said, there’s the elephant in the room here; none of these predictions can transpire without WAV manufacturers collaborating effectively and developing more robust business partnerships.
Assistive technology companies must be consulted to ensure their devices can seamlessly integrate into the vehicles. There’ll need to be tests, feedback, and customer surveys to ensure that everything is operating at optimum levels.
Mobility service providers may need to work more closely with manufacturers and businesses to ensure that all of their ride-sharing initiatives are accessible to all. If home demonstrations of WAVs can be on-demand, then it’s in the interests of everybody else in the industry to provide a similar level of convenience for all.
So, the future of WAVs is a team game. Innovation will arrive through cooperation as it always has, but these business relationships will likely deepen as more progress is made.
As you can see, there’s a lot to look forward to and speculate about regarding the future of WAVs. Not everything we’ve envisioned may come to pass, but there are signs and suggestions in the industry that more than a few of these factors could feasibly come to pass. It’s a period of great change for the auto industry, and WAVs will be part of that evolution in more ways than one.