Driving a van is usually associated with work or a big family. However, there is a category of drivers who just need additional space because they are disabled. There are also those, who want to maintain their job or business even with their advancing age and declining health. In fact, there are many reasons why people with physical handicaps and age-related restrictions drive vans and it gave some inspiration to introduce new innovative driving aids for such drivers.
Company recognized that older customers may have special need while driving their vans and recently introduced some solutions that will help drivers to maintain their mobility and independence. Obviously, the main operation of the driving is controlling the steering wheels. This seems so easy for most of us, but handicapped or simply older people find it very difficult and awkward.
To bring confidence, comfort and safety to this segment of drivers, Mercedes used a simple rotating knob on the left or right side of the steering wheel. It is not a new thing and most of us have already seen it, but it does help a lot as it allows driving with only one hand. Customers may also choose a more simple combination switch and cruise control stalk, both of which can be operated from the right-hand side of the steering wheel, using additional levers.
Second most important thing is operations of braking and accelerating. Mercedes introduced two options of hand control. Classic one has a familiar layout – turning the knob accelerates the van, while a gentle push forward applies the brakes.
“Easy speed” option accelerating and braking are accomplished with pulling and pushing the lever. In case a healthy driver needs to use the van, pedals are still there and ready to use, but can be covered to prevent unintentional operation.
The Mercedes-Benz V-Class can also be fitted with so called “MFD Touch” multifunction knob, which allows driver to control low beam, high beam, indicators, horn and windscreen wipers without having to let go of the steering wheel. However, company says that each vehicle can be tailored to individual needs.
Klaus Maier, Head of Marketing and Sales at Mercedes-Benz Vans, said: “We want everybody to be able to benefit from the safety, comfort and technology of a Mercedes-Benz. With our tailor-made driving and mobility aids for the V-Class and the Citan, we offer full mobility and maximum possible independence to people with physical disabilities. Thanks to their spacious interiors, our vans are also perfect for wheelchair conversions”.
Such individual adaptations reach surprisingly far. For example, short drivers can get pedal extensions, which reduce the distance to the pedals between five and ten centimetres. Taller customers can also benefit from Mercedes flexibility – there is an option of relocating the seat 50 mm to the rear.
All these modification are made by Mercedes-Benz itself, but more extreme conversions are made by the specialist company Paravan from Pfronstetten-Aichelau, which works in close cooperation with Mercedes-Benz Vans. They offer cassette lifts that help customers with wheelchairs. In fact, people with electronic wheelchairs do not even have to get out of them, since there can be docking stations installed, fixing such wheelchairs in place for a driver or co-driver position.
Furthermore, new technologies allow even the most disabled people to drive. Paravan offers the drive-by-wire system “Space Drive II”, which allows people with restricted mobility to drive a vehicle even if their strength level is very low and movement capacity is minimal. This system makes all controls very light, yet precise and safe.
This is very good news for disabled people, who still want to work or simply to maintain their mobility and independence. Mercedes-Benz vans are famous for their extreme range of different bodies and customization options, which make it rather obvious that needs of handicapped or age-restricted customers had to be addressed too.
There are many vehicles from many manufacturers that allow disabled people to drive, but Mercedes-Benz Vans seems to be a rather attractive solution, since the full factory warranty applies to all conversions. People can only benefit from being inclusive and aiding handicapped people to remain a functional part of our society.