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Coimbatore students develop India's first self-driving wheelchair, Self-E!

Its called Self-E and it is India's first self-driving wheelchair! The brains behind it are three final-year engineering students and their professor at the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.

Self-E can take a user safely from point to point by navigating its own path and avoiding obstacles on the way. The wheelchair uses a Robotic Operating System (ROS) for autonomous navigation.

The wheelchair creates a map of the surrounding space, along with stationary and moving obstacles, using a laser sensor and displays it through a smartphone app. The user can then touch any point on the generated map, and the wheelchair will drive to that place automatically.

Unlike the imported self-driving wheelchairs which are quite expensive, these young inventors have managed to produce the prototype at below Rs one lakh. This will be great news for wheelchair patients in India.

The wheelchair is unique because it is India's first self-driving wheelchair built by research lab of a university without any collaboration with foreign universities or companies. Self-E now needs to be tested in different environments like hospitals and airports with patients and wheelchair users.

The Self-E wheelchair also addresses a critical need. In a hospital or airport, people with mobility issues depend on a manual wheelchair along with wheelchair pushers, which hampers their freedom of movement. If they use a powered wheelchair with joystick control, they need to manipulate the joystick and steer the wheelchair all the way to the destination.

In comparison, Self-E maps the surrounding environment using a laser sensor called LiDAR. The map is automatically loaded onto an Android smartphone or tablet through a specially developed app. This allows the user to relax while the wheelchair takes them to the desired destination point on its own.

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