When someone has a powered wheelchair that needs to be transported, the purchase of a wheelchair-accessible van is often required. Canadian inventor Len Wideman, however, doesn’t think that people should have to go to such an extreme. That’s why he created the Towter Transporter. It’s a climate-controlled trailer that’s designed for the easy loading and unloading of wheelchairs, and it can be towed by any standard-hitch-equipped vehicle.
The Towter features a powered loading platform that lowers to the ground when the wheelchair (or scooter) is going on and coming off. That platform is automatically raised for transit, plus an integrated cover comes down to shield the chair from rain and dust. By contrast, most other wheelchair trailers have a ramp that the wheelchair must climb, and the chair is left exposed to the elements.
And no, users don’t stay on their wheelchair while it’s being towed. They would need to either have enough mobility to make it from their chair into the main vehicle on their own, or have people on hand who could carry them. To save them from having to get back into a freezing-cold wheelchair in the winter, a thermostat-controlled heating system keeps it warm while on the road (or at least, it will on the finished version).
The trailer additionally utilizes a smartphone-activated self-hitching system, along with a self-parking system that uses an onboard electric motor, GPS and sensors to guide the trailer away from the towing vehicle once it’s unhitched.
Wideman and his team are currently seeking contributions for the commercial development of the Towter Transporter, on Indiegogo. There’s no word on the estimated price of a final production version, other than that it should be about a quarter the cost of getting a van converted.
More information is available in the pitch video below.
UPDATE (Aug.28/14): Regarding the loading of disabled passengers in and out of the towing vehicle, a company representative has informed us of the following: "The Towter will have a user transfer system. The wheelchair can pull up beside an open vehicle, and a pneumatic transfer platform will slide the user over into the vehicle. The Towter app can then steer the wheelchair to the loading position behind the Towter trailer. An automated arm will then load the chair into the trailer, and lock it in place for transport."