Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Simulator Assesses Patient’s Ability to Drive

One of the most common concerns doctors hear from patient's undergoing surgery that affects their right leg or foot, is when they will regain the ability to drive. The problem that many physicians face when releasing a patient to drive is that they do not have an objective way to measure how well that person can handle a car in the real world. A group of students at Bucknell University are hoping to change that with a simulator that replicates what it is like to drive a car.

 

Zane Patterson ’22 (left) and Tony Song ’20 are continuing work with the device this semester with Professor Eric Kennedy.
Zane Patterson ’22 (left) and Tony Song ’20 are continuing work with the device this semester with Professor Eric Kennedy. Photo by Emily Paine, Bucknell University Communications

From the Bucknell University article "In 2016, Horwitz teamed with Professor Eric Kennedy, biomedical engineering, to search for a better method, supported by a Bucknell Geisinger Research Initiative grant. They set out to design a simulator that would offer a more reliable indication of a patient's readiness to drive than, for example, lifting weights on a leg press, by more precisely replicating the range of motion and pressure a driver must exert while braking in an emergency. Students Phil Amarante '18 and Ridhi Sahani '18 joined the project in 2017 as an independent research experience, and late last year Tony Song '20 and Graeme Bazarian '20 picked up where they left off, continuing development as a summer research project."

 

The device contains all the major components of a car including steering wheel, seat, and pedals. The pedals behave similarly to those in a real car including simulating the pressure a driver would feel if they braked hard. The system measures the patient's performance and reports the results to the doctor, who can then make an objective decision on whether or not their patient is road ready.

 

Read more about the simulator that tests a patient's ability to drive at Bucknell University.