Dynamic Stability Control of Front Wheel Drive Wheelchairs Using Solid State Accelerometers and Gyroscopes
Thesis DisciplineMechanical Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Engineering
While the active dynamic stability of automobiles has increased over the past 17 years there have been very few similar advances made with electrically powered wheelchairs. This lack of improvement has led to a long standing acceptance of less-than-optimal stability and control of these wheelchairs. Accidents due to loss of stability are well documented. Hence, the healthcare industry has made several efforts for improved control of electric powered wheelchairs (EPWs) to provide enhanced comfort, safety and manoeuvrability at a lower cost. In response, an area of stability control was identified that could benefit from a feedback control system using solid state sensors.
To design an effective closed–loop feedback controller with optimal performance to overcome instabilities, an accurate model of wheelchair dynamics needed to be created. Such a model can be employed to test various controllers quickly and repeatedly, without the difficulties of physically setting a wheelchair up for each test. This task was one central goal of this research.
A wireless test-bed of a front wheel drive (FWD) wheelchair was also developed to validate a dynamic wheelchair model. It integrates sensors, a data control system, an embedded controller, and the motorised mechanical system. The wireless communication ensures the integrity of sensor data collected and control signals sent. The test-bed developed not only facilitates the development of feedback controllers of motorised wheelchairs, but the collected data can also be used to confirm theories of causes of dynamic instabilities. The prototype test-bed performed the required tasks to satisfaction as defined by the sponsor.
Data collected from live tests in which the test-bed followed set patterns, was processed and analysed. The patterns were designed to induce instability. The analysis revealed that an occupied wheelchair is more stable than an unoccupied wheelchair, disproving an initial instability theory proposed in this research. However, a proximal theory explaining over-steer is confirmed.
Two models of the FWD test-bed were created. First, a dynamic model inherited from prior research, based on equations of motion was tested and enhanced based on measured data. However, even with alterations to correct parameter values and variables in the equations, a complete model validation was not possible. Second, a kinematic model was created with a factor to compensate for dynamics not normally accounted in kinematic models. The kinematic model was partially validated versus the measured data. Although, still highly accurate, there is room for improvement in this model. Both models contained a sub-system drive motor model, to account for input forces to the FWD wheelchair system model, which is fully validated.