Saturday, November 16, 2013

Portable Hand-Controls.

Last update: 2/2019

Portable Hand-Controls Systems.

There are several types of portable hand-controls in the market. These systems may be installed in minutes in almost any automatic car, leaving no marks (holes) on the dashboard or car body. Handicapped drivers with strong hands and fingers may operate them safely. With some of them cruise control is an advantage: pressing a pedal with 1 finger for hours may be hard for some drivers.
The legal status of portable systems in various countries is not clear. Therefore one should not attempt to install such a system without explicit approval of the rental company. In case of an accident, insurance may be void if such an offense is done, no matter who is blamed for the accident! On the other hand, we must press the makers of the systems to state clearly the legal status of their systems. It is their interest also to press for recognition by both government offices and car-rental companies.

Some modern cars have an air-bag for the driver`s legs. It may cause injury when some types of hand-controls are installed. There should be an option to disconnect this air-bag.
In that subject I got the following reply from Europe by Car:
Date: Fri, 9 Apr 1999 11:11:27 -0400
Subject: RE: Disabled drivers
''We do not provide hand control systems, but you should be able to
install your own ony a rental or lease car, provided no permanent damage
is done in the installation.''
Exactly one year after this message I tried to exercise their service, but their bottom line was:
''All rental car companies reserve the right to refuse delivery to any
client they deem unable to properly drive their vehicles.
We cannot guarantee that our suppliers in Europe will agree to
deliver a car to you.
If you need a guarantee before you arrive to take delivery that a 
rental car company
is going to deliver you the vehicle, we suggest you
attempt to place the order with another company.''


General remarks

When you try to rent a specific car, the rental company says it will be from the required ''class'' or upper (an upgrade). For most drivers an upgrade is a welcomed event but with portable systems it may be a problem. Therefore insist on getting an updated list of cars on which it is impossible / unsafe to install your portable system. ''Updated list'' because international car-rental companies offer only new cars. With finger-operated systems (like LYNX, Peddle-Master) ask also about the hardness of the gas pedal returning spring.

Lynx

This is a system I have good experience with. I have driven already some 15000 km with it in various countries. It is made in the UK and used by some car-rental companies there. The driver must have good balance on the car seat because the system floats (attached to the pedals only). With some cars strong fingers are required also. During installation, extra care should be taken with rubber-coated pedals. If this coating is not removable reversibly, you may consider extra fastening arrangements.
Lynx helps its customers finding rental cars in various countries. In some locations the system is available for rent through institutions for disabled people.
The system was mentioned in the BBC transprot tips for disabled travellers. They said (March 2004, the link was removed later):
The Lynx Hand Control ... is accepted by most major hire companies.
In 1998 a US-patent was issued on the system (see figure and description there).
Comprehensive safety tests are reported on the Lynx system.

Peddle-Master

An American portable hand-controls system similar to the British Lynx. It claims to have faster mechanical attachments to the car pedals.
Judson said (in earlier version of their site) that
Only 20 to 30 percent of the world's airports offer handicap vehicles for rent. The lightweight and portable Peddle Master may be carried in a suit case, so the physically challenged traveler may also have the option of renting any car that fits his or her needs.
My experience is that above percentage is optimistic outside USA. Also not all rental companies will agree to installation of portable system. See also their patent.

PHCIII

An American portable hand-controls system similar to the British Lynx and the American Peddle-Master. It claims to have fast mechanical attachments to the car pedals:
The PHC III is designed to be installed from a wheelchair, and without tools.
With a little practice, most people can install these hand controls in under three minutes.
The system is demonstrated in a video uploaded to YouTube.
European distribution by Oasis.

CT901

The most interesting system was made by Craig Lenz, Contact Technologies from Weyburn, Canada. Their CT901 system was very similar to the standard permanent systems and the package of the system was very clever. I drove a rented car fitted with CT901 in USA in 1993. It was OK after I got used to the loose feeling (built-in freedom of the attachment to the steering column).
Contact Technologies does not exist any more, but the production line of the CT901 was purchased by Automobility. Details were given in the (previous) site of Scott's Adaptive Devices. By the way, Scott is listed as one of the inventors of the CT901, the other inventor is Craig Lenz. It was later defined as ''quick-attach-permanent'' and there is a question about it's portability. They say it is used in thousands of car-rental locations. They state also:
For liability reasons we do not sell our system as a portable, there aren't any portables that will meet standards...
That is an interesting point to verify with the other makers.

Fruehling Driving System (FDS)

Fruehling Driving System (FDS) Ltd. specialize in vehicle adaptaions for disabled drivers. The company offers hand-controls (similar to the original CT901) and left gas pedal. We don`t know yet which car-rental companies allow the installation of such systems.

Handicaps, Inc.

An American firm claiming long experience with hand-controls. The specs may be found in their brochure.
Their system was later displayed and sold by Mobility Med. They say: To be used on a temporary basis only. For Example: when renting a car for temporary transportation. Be sure to rent a car with Automatic Transmission, power brakes and steering... STRONG ARMS & HANDS REQUIRED. On 3/2013 the manufacturer of the system is not shown in the page.

EZ Drive

Another floating system is called EZ Drive (Easydrive). Installation instructions and usage demo were uploaded to YouTube. They claim: ``accepted by the car registration of Finland`` and offer test-drive.
The site of ``Easydrive`` disappeared from the Internet (verified 6/2016).

AZ-1 Portable Hand control

The system ``floats`` and is similar to the``Lynx``. The ``AZ-1`` is made by Colours in Motion, California, USA.

Internet Shopping

An Interesting collection of portable hand-control systems may be found in Amazon. For each system the price is displayed, so this is a good place to get an idea about the cost.

Patents.

Here are results of a quick search on portable systems in the US patents database. Most patent documents contain reference to many other similar patents. Some of them did not reach the markets.
CT901 (see above).
Contact Technologies (see above).
Peddle-Master (see above).
Lynx (see above).
Patent 5542312 by B.T. Peters (filed 1994). Similar to Lynx and Peddle-Master.
Patent 4424723 by Gockel, D.A. (filed 1981). Similar to Lynx.
Patent application by Fruehling.

The patents database is Delphion.com (previously hosted by IBM). It contains both text and figures, but some pages need registration.

Last update: 2/2019

Address:

Main page; Alphabetical index.