What is it?
As a consequence of rapid advancements in technology and information abundance, the tourism sector kept booming and growing before COVID-19 hit. Arranging all accommodations, transportation, and activities to do on vacation became as easy to achieve with the click of a button. However, it has not been as simple for the inclusive tourism segment, which requires a lot more planning and research when organizing a trip to an unfamiliar location. Over the years, mobility has been taken for granted.
So as to assist this growing segment with more freedom and independence, WheeM-I was developed by the well-known car design firm, Italdesign. With over 50 years of experience in automobile and industrial designs, the company decided to immerse in this project. As mentioned by its CEO Jörg Astalosch: “We strongly believe that future mobility must have a positive impact on everyone’s life. WheeM-I is part of this vision which we really hope to bring to reality”.
WheeM-I, which stands for Wheelchair Mobility Interface, is a 100% electric and semi-autonomous “wheel-on” assistant designed to eliminate architectural barriers for customers with walking difficulties and/or in wheelchairs, allowing them to move freely around vast and challenging areas. It also features an integrated system to prevent riders from collisions with fixed or moving objects.
It basically works like a bike sharing service: through a smartphone app, users can locate available units around, book them and get on board on their own wheelchairs to move around cities without the aid of pushing hands. At the end, users need to return the vehicle to the closest hub.
Why it’s cool?
For future disabled travelers and WheeM-I’s hubs, the addition of this service will be a much-needed source of excitement and hope:
· Easy to find and reserve — just by using a smartphone, tablet, or computer
· Revolutionary design that looks like a device from the future
· Potential use in other areas of tourism
· Smart device likely to provide autonomous driving in the close future
Why it has future growth potential?
Inclusive tourism is a growing market segment, mostly due to an aging population and improved accessibility in many touristic areas. Wheelchair and limited mobility individuals are more willing to explore places if given the right tools to move freely. Just like WheeM-I will do so.
Although primarily designed for users to cover large areas, the device can also be used in airports to transport passengers from check-in counters to planes and vice versa which would ease and reduce the need for airport personnel to carry passengers. Another potential use are amusement parks in order to cover large areas and to ride some attractions, if adjustments can be made accordingly. Concert festivals, parks, challenging terrain areas can also benefit with the use of this fantastic device.
Surely, micro-mobility services like WheeM-I will provide individuals in wheelchairs a whole new set of potential locations to visit and plenty of independence. Let’s hope to see WheeM-I spread around the globe in the near future.