13 Oct Total Driving Control – The Fadiel Satellite Accelerator
Establishing independence through driving a vehicle is significant for anyone with a disability, and for those recovering from an accident that left them unable to drive a standard vehicle, that independence can be a major part of someone’s psychological recovery.
Making alterations to your car is a big decision, and it’s a decision you want to get right first time.
To maintain confidence, the equipment needs to work well for you straight away, and the selected modifications need to score well against three important considerations:
- How safe are they?
- How practical are they?
- How easy are they to learn to use?
Focus on Acceleration
The accelerator is a key component for anyone using vehicle hand controls to drive, and whilst the equipment for braking and steering using hand controls remains reasonably standard, there is greater variation for accelerators.
Fadiel’s Satellite Accelerator is worn like a glove, the user’s thumb pressing down on a lever to accelerate. The device communicates to a vehicle’s original electronic system via ‘fly-by-wire’, a technique that has been used to fly aircraft for many years.
To explain the superior features of the Fadiel Satellite Accelerator, we talked to three people who use it in situations that are, let’s say, a little more extreme than usual!
Jim Kolokithas had a motorbike accident four years ago that left him fighting for his life with a T10 Spinal Cord Injury. As well as riding bikes, Jim’s passion for the outdoors and use of vehicles for his business, Fruitastic, meant that driving was something he was determined to get back to as soon as he recovered.
Alan Bloore, a former professional athlete, was paralysed from the chest down after a boating accident in 2006. After recovery, Alan’s competitive streak emerged stronger than ever, and he set himself the goal of finishing the Targa Tasmania car rally, something he’d dreamt about driving in well before his accident.
Mark Harris was injured in a motorbike accident 10 years ago and became paraplegic, but never gave up his love of motorsport and discovered a passion for Drift Racing after he recovered sufficiently to start driving again.
Jim, Alan and Mark use the Fadiel Satellite Accelerator in challenging conditions as well as for the more mundane tasks of driving around town.
When we caught up with Jim, he was hurriedly preparing for a drive to Falls Creek Ski Resort to take advantage of a recent dump of snow – he now skis with a mono “sit ski”. We asked him about the safety aspects of the Fadiel Satellite Accelerator:
“I worked through the options with my OT (Occupational Therapist) and remember looking into the Fadiel Satellite Accelerator and realising that it was the only control on the market that would allow me to truly have both hands firmly on the steering wheel whilst driving.”
“Zoom forward to now, and I am driving off-road for work and up to the mountains for pleasure, so I’m often in difficult conditions – safety is of paramount importance. I haven’t felt the need to try anything else and, in fact, have installed the Satellite Accelerator on all three of my vehicles: my car, a Toyota Tundra Ute for work, and my wife’s Mercedes Viano 8 Seater van”.
When we spoke with Alan Bloore, we learned that he wasn’t only entrusting the Satellite Accelerator with his own safety, he also had some very precious “cargo” on-board when driving in Targa Tasmania: his son was his navigator!
“My wife said if you don’t bring him back exactly as he left, don’t come home ever! If it wasn’t for the Satellite Accelerator, I wouldn’t have attempted the Targa, simple as that. I trusted it with my life and most importantly, my son’s.”
For Mark, the Satellite Accelerator was the second device he had tried on his drift racing car, and it immediately solved a major problem:
“Basically, the over-ring accelerator I used wasn’t consistently delivering power to the engine. With drift racing, having precise control over your throttle is one of the most important factors in allowing you to enter and maintain a drift. Without that, the danger is you’ll spin. Off the track, you also want an accelerator that is precise and responsive when you have other vehicles and pedestrians around you.”
“I was already using Fadiel’s duck clutch, and Paul (Paul Crake of Total Ability) suggested I try the Satellite Accelerator. Once installed, I haven’t looked back. It instantly made a huge difference”.
All three noted that the Satellite Accelerator had other important features for ensuring safety: the cut-out mechanism eliminates acceleration on start up, and when you apply the brake the accelerator is cancelled. The unit is fully adjustable to fit any hand size and for use with the left or right hand. Finally, the acceleration curve is programmable to be tailored for each driver.
For Jim, there were two aspects of the Satellite Accelerator that were especially important. He spends up to 30 days in the mountains each year over several visits, and that involves an 800km round trip, so driver fatigue was a concern. Secondly, the dual use of his wife’s van meant that being able to change drivers without a problem was a consideration:
“With the Satellite Accelerator, it’s so easy: a flick of a switch and my wife can take over. The car returns to normal controls. The brake controls are also out of the way, so it really is an instant transition.”
For Alan, the Targa is completed over eleven days with many hours behind the wheel each day facing unending turns, acceleration and deceleration. “There’s no room for a device that might undermine my ability to focus all my strength on controlling the car. It’s already a test of endurance. The Fadiel Satellite Accelerator gets out of the way, and lets me only have to think about the next corner.”
Mark noted that the Satellite Accelerator enabled him to remain in a better driving position and he put this down as a significant reason why he hadn’t experienced the same fatigue compared to the over ring accelerator he had been using.
How easy to learn?
As soon as he was able to drive after his release from the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre, Jim’s introduction to the Fadiel Satellite Accelerator went smoothly, and he required only one session with a driving instructor before receiving the go ahead to take the test for his new licence.
“Maybe, having that experience with motor bikes – which of course use hand controls – helped, but it really wasn’t difficult.”
Mark had his license before he started using the Satellite Accelerator, but also felt it was a “cinch” to use: “anyone can pick it up and start using it, it really is that easy”.
Alan remarked on how adjustable the unit was, allowing him to change the settings as he became more accustomed to using his thumb to accelerate. “I’m down to 4mm ‘travel’ that equates to the difference between 0 and 9000 RPM. I started with 12mm. I don’t think I’ll be lowering it to 3mm! The main thing is that you can start with a very safe and easy setting until you gain confidence.”
Mark credits the Satellite Accelerator for putting him on an level playing field with other drivers in drift racing. “I’m not racing in competition, but I do feel like I’m no longer disadvantaged, and at the end of the day, I’m just having a whole lot of fun.”
Jim put in a special word for Total Ability and Paul’s after-care service. “I’ve put the unit through its paces – the three vehicles have covered well over 100,000 kms in the past 4 years – and inevitably there is wear and tear, things like a broken strap. Paul has immediately couriered me a replacement. I received it the next day and was back on the road.”
Alan reflected on something that the other drivers touched on: when they now get behind the wheel, the feel they are viewed just the same as any other driver on the road. Anyone observing Alan, Jim or Mark wouldn’t guess that the cars are being driven by people with disabilities.
Even better than that, all three drivers mention that when they are driving, their disabilities melt into the background. It’s just them and the road… but maybe not quite the same road you and I drive on every time.