Technology February 22, 2021
Automotive accessibility product Caruna helps people with disabilities move in & out of cars easily
Getting in and out of cars can be painful for people with disabilities and the elderly. Puducherry engineer Ashwin Shreshtha, founder of the start-up Vaahan, has designed a swivel seat called Caruna that helps users get in and out of cars easily by just pressing a button.
Puducherry start up Vaahan is out to make road trips less of an ordeal for people with disabilities and the elderly. In collaboration with the Accessible India Campaign, Vaahan founder Ashwin Shreshtha has designed a swivel seat called Caruna that helps users get in and out of a car by just pressing a button.
An automotive engineer, Shreshtha, has experience in the field of passenger safety. He came up with this idea while doing his masters in Germany where he noticed the number of German and Swedish products that allowed disabled people and spinal injury patients access to their own cars, suited for their needs. “In 2016 went to the Hanover Industrial Fair where I heard speeches by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel”, he recalls. “I saw the launch of the Startup India initiative and the Accessibility India Campaign and decided to come back and develop safe accessible solutions for the automotive industry.”
3 accessibility patents
Back in India Shreshtha mentored for six months under the prominent innovator George Mani. He learned the skill of making new products and got three patents to his name. He developed an automatic recliner seat that eases long distance travel and other similar solutions for people with disabilities. A swivel seat he designed for a disabled auto rickshaw driver garnered a lot of interest and Shreshtha modified the design for use in passenger cars. This is when the spark was lit for Caruna.
Shreshtha’s start up Vaahan came into full operation in 2017, with Caruna. It took several months of research before he was satisfied with the final product. After two years of intensive research and development, the product was launched in 2020.
How Caruna works
The Caruna seat is fully automatic and is designed for six feet individuals. A footrest is attached to the seat so passengers can lean on it. It is easy to customise. There’s a mechanism under the seats which senses the obstacles on the car and makes sure that the hands, legs don’t hit and brings the passenger and the seat out of the door completely. There’s a remote-controlled automatic height adjusting multipurpose work/study table.
The cost of a Caruna seat is one-third of products that are imported. Our competitors are Swedish imports and more recently the United Kingdom. We have added extra features that make Caruna comfortable for Indian body sizes and the seat can be fitted into any car of Indian make. – Ashwin Shreshtha, Founder, Vaahan
At present Shreshtha is focusing on the Indian market. “Our first sale was to an 83-year-old grandmother who uses a walker to get around. Her son asked us to design this for her”, he says. Another client was a young woman in her 20s who is paralysed from the waist down and needs to make frequent trips to see her doctor.
Based on feedback, Shreshtha plans to improve upon the product. He also plans to create electric wheelchairs for cars and other assistive mobility products. Clearly this young man and his team are determined to transfer the way people with disabilities travel.
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