The BusBuddy: An Automated Wheelchair Containment System

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A safety system was designed to minimize movement of wheelchair or scooter-seated passengers who ride in fixed-route public transportation and need assistance from bus operators to secure their wheelchair on board mass transit. The BusBuddy system is the solution for transit systems in urban areas that allow passengers to stand during the ride. Wheelchair and scooter passengers can quickly enter and exit the BusBuddy without the help from bus drivers. The BusBuddy concept was designed by two engineers, Michael Turkovich and Linda van Roosmalen. The BusBuddy enhances wheelchair transportation safety, rider independence of wheelchair users on buses and eliminate bus operator involvement with wheelchair securement and restraint practices.

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The performance of the BusBuddy concept has been evaluated on the SpIMULATOR, a dynamic test (demonstrated in the video above) conforming with industry standard ISO/DIS-10865-2. The dynamic test was done to evaluate the BusBuddy during de/accelerations of equal or less than 1m/s2 and similar to when a large bus abruptly breaks, turns or accelerates. 

Test results indicate that during a quick stop or turn of the bus, the BusBuddy concept contains the wheelchair or scooter-seated passenger in the wheelchair securement station thereby reducing the risk of injury to wheelchair passengers and other vehicle passengers by reducing wheelchair passenger tips and falls in the vehicle. The BusBuddy features a lap bar that provides stability to wheelchair and scooter-seated passengers during the ride. Although it is always recommended that wheelchair users wear their postural support devices that come on their wheelchairs, the fit of the BusBuddy lap bar to a variety of wheelchair and scooter passengers eliminates the need for a vehicle-mounted seat belt.

Funding received through an SBIR-I Grant from the Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research supported the evaluation of the BusBuddy concept under dynamic accelerations to ensure its safety during use. Using a test method developed by LINC-Design and the University of Pittsburgh, the performance of the BusBuddy concept was compared to that of a 4-point tiedown securement system (with/without the use of a pelvic belt). Results of this study were presented at the TRB conference in Washington DC. Results indicate that the BusBuddy is a viable solution for low acceleration environments to minimize the risk of wheelchair passenger tips and falls during transit vehicle turning, stopping and accelerating. A BusBuddy that fits within existing buses and other modes of mass transit is under development.

Based on SBIR-I funding, LINC-Design has established a product requirements document that can be used by manufacturers to design and build a BusBuddy that fulfills the needs of wheelchair/scooter passengers and bus operators. LINC Design plans to further develop the BusBuddy concept in collaboration with a bus seat-manufacturer and the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

© LINC Design 2018