Freedom Lift debuts novel transport system

Thursday, June 30, 2005

GREEN LANE, Pa. - Eight months after a coy introduction at Medtrade, Freedom Lift has come fully out of the closet with its Automated Transport and Retrieval System (ATRS).
The company last month unveiled its new vehicle lift/patient transport technology before a gathering of industry dignitaries and national media, showing onlookers what company officials believe is a new paradigm in travel for power wheelchair users.
Freedom Lift and its parent company Cook Technologies developed the ATRS in conjunction with several Pennsylvania academic institutions, including Carnegie Mellon University, Lehigh University and the University of Pittsburgh. It utilizes some of the same laser navigation principles found in Carnegie Mellon's design of the Department of Defense's "smart bombs" used in Iraq.
The completely automated modular system is designed so that a power chair user can easily shift from chair to vehicle seat with little or no assistance. Basically, the system modifies the driver or front passenger seat so that it slides back to the center of the van, positioned adjacent to the chair, which loads from the rear of the vehicle. A touch screen unit coordinates the process and operates by remote control. The system is "non-invasive," said Bob Smith, Freedom Lift's director of marketing, alleviating the need for a full-scale van conversion because the system can be easily installed and removed.
"This system enables the chair user to sit in a crash-tested seat, and they don't have to struggle to get in and out through the driver's door," he said. "The vehicle seat swivels to allow for side-to-side transfer."
Freedom Lift executives figure the sales potential for the ATRS is somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million and the company is working with mobility manufacturers to ensure it works with all the leading chair brands, Smith said.