This wheelchair can climb up and down stairs

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A team of Swiss university students want to make life easier for wheelchair users, so they’re developing a wheelchair that can climb stairs.

If you use a wheelchair and live in a city, life isn’t too easy for you. Less than a quarter of all subway stops in New York City are accessible to wheelchair users, for example, and in the center of London, only one in seven underground stations are wheelchair-friendly.

Called Scewo, the Swiss wheelchair is designed for the city. The electrically powered chair is self balancing and has rubber tracks on the underside that drop down when the user engages its climbing mode. Scewo then heads backward up the stairs at the pace of about one step per second, the designers say. At the top, two small wheels pop out from the back to bring the chair level and the main wheels descend and take over. The chair can also raise itself up so the user can talk to other people at eye level. Plus it has a track mode for bad weather conditions like snow or loose gravel. Even in its normal mode, the chair is pretty agile, and can go over curbs and other obstacles.

“Right now it is just a prototype and it’s expensive and not very robust,” said project leader, Beni Winter.

The team, who work on the project in their free time, hope to have a version ready to sell by 2018. Watch the video above to see the wheelchair in action.