As I mentioned previously, yesterday I took a test drive in a vehicle fitted with the controls I’m hoping to get for my new car and it went well.
After trying a few combinations I settled on a forward/back joystick in my left hand for brake/accelerate and a left/right joystick in my right hand for steering and ended up driving around my estate for about twenty minutes. That might not seem very long but the idea was purely to see if I could use the controls and I got to grips with them (pun intended) pretty quick.
The guy sat in the passenger seat said he felt perfectly safe and didn’t once feel he was going to need to use the dual-control brake or accelerator he had on his side - I feel particularly proud of this fact for several reasons:
- I hadn’t driven for over 15 months;
- the vehicle we used yesterday was a Mercedes Vito - the biggest thing I’ve ever driven by far;
- it was left-hand drive.
We drove around, turned here and there, accelerated, slowed down, avoided the learner drivers (they use our estate a lot), realised that I was technically a learner driver myself, stopped quick when a dog threatened to run across the road (but changed its mind at the last moment) and generally had fun. To say I was chuffed was a bit of an understatement.
Then we had a chat about the cost:
Me: “So, how much would I be looking at?”
Him: “Well, the van you’ve just driven which has the joysticks and all other controls, switches, levers and so on moved to an easily accessible button pad would set you back about £40,000.”
Me: “I suppose that’s not too bad.”
Him: “That doesn’t include the cost of the vehicle itself.”
Me: “That’s just the controls?!?”
Me: ” … “
That’s a lot of money and certainly more than I was expecting. But, when I thought about it more and more it still seemed like a lot of money but I could see why: as he said, all other controls had been moved to a button pad (this included things like ignition, wipers, lights, heater, hand-brake and gears) so there’s a hell of a lot of electronics and motors involved. For instance: if you need to release the hand-brake you simply press a button - there’s a whirring, a soft “clunk” and you’re ready to go. Similarly, changing gear (i.e. going from “Park” to “Drive”) is also a simple button press. And all this is covered by secondary systems incase of failure and even backup electrics that allow you to steer should you need to get yourself off the road and the engine won’t start (obviously you’d need a push). So, it’s not simply a job of plugging in a couple of joysticks and attaching them to a motor or two and to them every job is unique.
Once my Dad’s funeral and memorial services are out of the way I can sit down and have a good think about how best to tackle this. There’s no a chance in hell of me being able to come up with £27,000 for an adapted Renault Kangoo plus probably as much again for the controls, so I’ll be writing a begging letter to Motability to see if they’ll throw me a lifeline.
In the meantime I may start buying a few lottery tickets …