From the latest automotive safety innovations to the latest self-driving cars, groundbreaking hybrid technology to robotics, Toyota is always pushing to come up with the next great idea while inspiring others to do more. The latest fruits of Toyota's brand-wide quest for a better tomorrow: the announcement that the Toyota Mobility Foundation has awarded a $1 million dollar prize to the winner of their three-year global Mobility Unlimited Challenge, which saw inventors and innovators from around the world submit ideas that they believe could change the lives of those with spinal cord injuries and other mobility challenges.

Announced in partnership with Nesta Challenges, the winner of the prize was British-based Phoenix Instinct, for their next-generation eclectic wheelchair. Made from ultra-lightweight carbon fiber -- a space-age material used on everything from racing bicycles to the 2021 Toyota Supra -- the Phoenix Instinct design utilizes smooth, front-wheel-drive power to prevent painful jarring and jerking while passing over differing terrain. In addition, the chair features intelligent systems that both adjust the chair's center of gravity when negotiating inclines, and a powered braking system that automatically senses when the person in the chair is going downhill, applying the brakes for a smooth, controlled descent. The $1 million dollar award will help Phoenix Instinct bring the chair to market, improving the lives of tens of thousands all over the world with spinal cord injury, motor-neuron diseases and other issues that make it impossible for them to walk.


The Toyota Mobility Foundation, established by Toyota in 2014, launched the Mobility Unlimited Challenge in 2017 in partnership with Nesta Challenges, in the hopes that a prize would spur innovation in the field of technologies to help those with movement issues or lower-body paralysis. Since then, over 80 teams from 28 countries have entered. The winner was chosen by a panel of expert judges, including engineers, scientists, scientists and researchers into mobility for those with paralysis.

Andrew Slorance from Phoenix Instinct said: “Winning the Toyota Mobility Unlimited Challenge is incredible for Phoenix Instinct and for wheelchair users. The wheelchair as we know it has been technologically unchanged for decades. The funding we received through the Challenge allowed us to prove smart technology, which makes for an easier to use and safer wheelchair with the potential for a suite of new features. With the prize money we can now advance this work and bring the Phoenix I wheelchair to the consumer. It’s a very exciting time with Toyota moving into the mobility sector, we’re going to see significant advances in mobility devices. At Phoenix Instinct we’re thrilled to be leading the smart wheelchair revolution.”

Philip Craven, member of the Board of Directors at Toyota Motor Corporation and former President of the International Paralympic Committee said of the competition: “Mobility means freedom. It means liberation from being limited in life. As we believe at Toyota, when we are free to move, we are able to fully participate in society, and I’m excited for each of these devices supported by the Mobility Unlimited Challenge, particularly the winning device, because of how it will allow so many people to better do what they want to do.”

Other finalists included: 

  • The Evowalk by Evolution Devices: a smart wearable stimulator by a U.S. team that uses artificial intelligence to support a person's leg muscles, aiding in rehab after a nerve-damagining injury and preventing falls for people with "foot drop."

  • Quality of Life with Locomotion by Team Qolo at University of Tsukuba, Japan – a mobility device that serves as both an exoskeleton and wheelchair, allowing seated wearers to move to a standing height if needed.

  • Quix by IHMC & MYOLYN -- another prototype produced by a U.S. team, the Quix is a powered, intelligent, highly-mobile wearable exoskeleton that offers users fast and stable movement with upright mobility.

  • Wheem-i by Italdesign – Fielded by a team in Italy, this semi-autonomous electric transport allows wheelchair users to traverse a variety of terrains and surface types thanks to agile maneuverability and on-board intelligent stabilization.

The World Health Organization estimates there are 250,000-500,000 new cases of spinal cord injury around the world every year, including almost 18,000 new cases annually in the U.S. The fact that Toyota and the Toyota Mobility Foundation are putting millions of dollars toward research aimed at finding solutions to help those with mobility issues lead fuller, richer lives makes everyone here at Steve Landers Toyota of Northwest Arkansas beyond proud.

Come share our pride! Stop in to check out the latest in Toyota innovation and safety, with a test drive of a new 2021 Toyota model today. Or you can shop our full selection of Toyota models at our website right now. 

Categories: Social