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The Paravan story

Roland Arnold & Paravan GmbH

Roland Arnold, the founder and managing director of Paravan GmbH, lost his father in a tragic accident when he was a young boy. Since this life-changing event, he has wanted to help people in need. As an adult, he struggled to make a living with a small tyre business and earned a little extra money by operating a combine harvester.

Paravan GmbH is born

The turning point in Roland Arnold’s life came in 1997 at a dreary car park on a motorway: In the pouring rain, he helped a woman who was having difficulties lifting her paraplegic husband into a car. This spontaneous action eventually led to the creation of PARAVAN. Roland Arnold’s vision was to give back mobility and a zest for life to people with disabilities. In a garage on his brother’s farm, he began working obsessively on innovative customised vehicles for disabled people. At first his efforts were greeted with ridicule and scepticism, but this soon gave way to extensive admiration.

The development of Space Drive

Arnold quickly turned his attention to developing a revolutionary drive-by-wire system (which was to become Space Drive) in order to make it possible for people with severe disabilities to become mobile again – or for the first time. His business and social commitment was driven by typical Swabian industriousness and virtually boundless ingenuity and inventiveness. In 2003, he acquired his first patents – and the components for the first generation of Space Drive were soon rolling off the line in his home factory. Paravan GmbH was then established in 2005. For his new company, Arnold built an ultra-modern 50,000 m² mobility park with his own money in Pfronstetten-Aichelau, a community with 270 inhabitants in the German state of Baden-Württemberg.

Paravan has been the global market and quality leader for highly customised vehicles for disabled people since 2009. Today we can make use of a vibrant network of experts in the fields of medicine, research, technology, business and politics. Each day, we learn something new from our customers. We now have 180 employees as well as branch offices and partners all over the world. One thing remains the same, however: the satisfaction that comes from being able to do something useful.

1 billion km travelled

One of the highlights of our extensive product range is the multi-redundant Space Drive II system – the first street-legal drive-by-wire system in the world. This fail-safe digital control system is designed for flexible use in safety-relevant automotive applications with state-of-the-art drive-by-wire technology. Over the last 15 years, Paravan has accumulated more than 1 billion kilometres of experience around the world with its Space Drive drive-by-wire system.

Autonomous driving with Space Drive

Today, Paravan is utilising this wealth of experience to help renowned car manufacturers and automotive suppliers put autonomous and partially autonomous experimental vehicles, prototypes and functional models on the road safely with a multi-redundant drive-by-wire system.

Here unrivalled solutions and vehicles are made. So that people with disabilities can regain their independence.

Roland Arnold, Owner & Managing Director
Paravan Gründer und Ideenfinder Roland Arnold

Milestones in a history of success

1989

Roland Arnold establishes a one-man tyre and minor body-construction business in a garage measuring 4 x 4 metres on his parent’s farm. With no means of financing or support, the trained automotive mechanic struggles through the first few years of his business operations. To make ends meet, he operates a combine harvester wherever he can during the harvest season.

Garage Anfänge Paravan in Tüftlerwerkstatt in Aichelau

1997

An important event leads to an idea: Roland Arnold helps a woman lift her paraplegic husband into a car in the pouring rain at a motorway rest stop. At that moment, he realises how important it is to create disability-friendly vehicles that allow people to move their wheelchairs directly up to the steering wheel: The idea that would become Paravan is born.

1998

First Paravan conversions; base vehicle: Chrysler Voyager. Number of employees: Five!

First award: Paravan’s innovative overall concept is awarded 1st prize in an innovation competition organised by the Handwerkskammer Reutlingen (chamber of skilled trades) and the Kreissparkasse Reutlingen bank.

Urkunden der Firma Paravan
Erster Messestand der Firma Paravan GmbH

1999

The power of persuasion: Roland Arnold remains committed to his idea, despite prevailing opinion – and ridicule. The going is rough, as no-one except for him really believes there is a market for his concept of offering unlimited mobility, independence and a better quality of life to people with disabilities around the world

2000

From an idea to a vision come true. Roland Arnold invests in the expansion of his workshop building to include a washing and processing hall. The company’s workforce and customer base grows.

Anfänge von Paravan erste Werkstatt Halle und erstes Team
Roland Arnold nimmt im Namen der Firma Paravan GmbH den VR Preis entgegen

2003

Recipient of the most highly endowed award in the state of Baden-Württemberg: The VR INNOVATION PRIZE for innovative technologies, high product quality and customer-focused approaches in the sector for vehicle conversions for people with disabilities. This marks the sixth award received by Roland Arnold and his Paravan team. Number of employees: 54

2005

Establishment of Paravan GmbH. The company previously operated under the name Roland Arnold. Number of employees: 70

Werkstatt Halle mit Autos
Roland Arnold und Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel

2005

GERMAN SKILLED TRADES AWARD – the most prestigious award for small and medium-size businesses in Germany. Criteria: outstanding product quality, innovative market development strategy, exemplary corporate culture.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bertelsmann CEO Liz Mohn, German MP Wolfgang Clement, the co-presidents of the Zentralverband des Deutschen Handwerks (central association of German skilled trades) and marketing expert Dr Heribert Meffert congratulate Roland Arnold on winning 1st prize.

2005

World’s first TÜV-tested, fully redundant driving and steering system. The vision begins to take shape with Paravan’s Space Drive system. Roland Arnold is on his way to becoming the world market leader in his business sector. Driving with a joystick for wheelchair users – and in future without a steering wheel and pedals for everyone. As early as 2005, Roland Arnold had created something that would shape the future.

Parvan Produktinnovation Space Drive Fahren ohne Lenksäule Fahren mit Joystick
Paravans neue Werkstatt Halle 2005

2005

Completion of an 1,800 square-metre development and production hall.

2008

Growing recognition: Bavarian State Award: 1st prize.

Paravan nimmt Bayrischen Staatspreis 2012 entgegen
Einstieg der Paravan GmbH ins Rolltstuhlgeschäft mit PR 50

2008

First prize for the CyberOne Hightech Award, presented by the State Minister of Research of Baden-Württemberg, Prof. Dr Frankenberg

Product range expanded: Paravan breaks new ground with the PR 50 – its first power wheelchair developed in-house. Paravan’s system of vehicle conversions, wheelchair securement and wheelchairs is crash-tested, and the PR 50 becomes the first power wheelchair to be approved as a vehicle seat throughout the EU.

2009

German Foreign Trade Award. Awarded by Germany’s leading industry associations and the Federal Foreign Office under the patronage of the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Technology. Gala award event in Bremen City Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Text of the award certificate: “New quality of life for wheelchair users and disabled people around the world.”

Aussenwirtschaftspreis Paravan
Hauptsitz der Firma Paravan GmbH in Pfronstetten-Aichelau

2009

Paravan GmbH is named a “Select Site in the Land of Ideas”. Construction of Hall 3 with state-of-the-art production equipment and machinery. Production capacity is expanded further in order to accommodate high demand.

2010

Roland Arnold is awarded a prize for the operating the “MOST ENCOURAGING COMPANY IN THE COUNTRY”. This is the 30th award for Paravan!

In recognition of his outstanding contribution to the economy of the state of Baden-Württemberg, Paravan Managing Director Roland Arnold is awarded the Economic Medal of the State of Baden-Württemberg in the New Palace in Stuttgart. The award is presented by State Minister for Economic Affairs Ernst Pfister.

Paravan mńimmt Mutmacher der Nation Presi 2010 entgegen

2011

First prize for the “Innovation Award of German Industry” (the first innovation award in the world), presented by Federal Minister of Research, A. Schavan
Roland Arnold created the world’s first street-legal drive-by-wire system with active redundancy. This system also creates the foundation for the biggest revolution in automotive history:
Confirmation of this comes in the form of the award certificate.

2011

A quantum leap for the mobility of disabled people: Adolf Würth GmbH & Co.KG from Künzelsau acquires a minority interest of 25.1% in Paravan GmbH.

Roland Arnold Händeschüttelnd mit Reinhold Würth

2011

Launch of large-scale industrial operations; number of employees: 118
The “One-stop shop” concept becomes a reality and is implemented on an industrial scale. This concept comprises vehicle conversions, wheelchairs, docking stations, lifting ramps, the Perfect Seat collection, joystick control for people with disabilities, etc. The groundwork is also laid for the establishment of a global partner network.

2012

Roland Arnold is honoured as a German entrepreneur, winning first prize in the German Entrepreneur’s Award, which is presented by Harvard Clubs of Germany at Frankfurt’s Opera Tower. A major tribute from the world-famous elite university Harvard, which is located in Boston, Massachusetts (USA). This is the 41st award for Paravan!

Roland Arnold’s vision has become a reality. His company’s technologies, in particular the drive-by-wire system, are considered to be unrivalled in the world and form the basis for integrated mobility solutions for disabled people around the globe. Roland Arnold – a visionary and implementer with clear goals: 2020/2030: Autonomous driving is on the way! It’s a market worth billions – and Roland Arnold’s drive-by-wire system, Space Drive, has created the foundation for it. Space Drive is a revolutionary milestone that emerged from highly complex technologies developed for vehicles for people with disabilities. Space Drive will lead the way forward to the complete digitalisation of the automotive world (as stated by Harvard Clubs of Germany in their explanation for presenting Roland Arnold with the German Entrepreneur’s Award).

Paravan nimmt Unternehmerpeis entgegen
Paravan wird als Marke ins Markenlexikon aufgenommen

2012

Paravan becomes a brand: The company is entered into the Encyclopaedia of German Brands.

2012

First joint trade fair presentation: Würth and Paravan make an appearance together for the first time at the important Rehacare industry trade fair in Düsseldorf. The company is particularly proud of the fact that Prof. Reinhold Würth shows up personally to visit the stand.

Messestand der RehaCare 2012
Neugebaute Zwischenhalle Werkstatt Paravan

2012

Expansion at the Paravan mobility park. Following several months of construction work, employees move into a new building that connects the existing factory halls. The extension enables Paravan to step up its wheelchair production activities and expand its warehouse and logistics operations.

2013

Range of Paravan power wheelchairs expanded: The all-new innovative PR Biolution standing wheelchair is ready for production. Highlights include newly developed biometric joints in the hip and knee areas.

Produktdiversifikation Stehrollstuhl PR Biolution
Paravan Innovation Space Drive und Drive-by-Wire Prinzip

2013

Space Drive II is launched on the market. The system’s brand-new safety architecture marks a revolution in drive-by-wire technology around the world.

2014

Reaching across the pond: Paravan launches its Space Drive 2 system in the USA. To this end, the company opens a sales office in Dayton, Ohio. Space Drive 2 then obtains its first approvals in several states.

USA Flagge
Roland Arnold und Würth

2015

Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG acquires a majority interest (51%) in Paravan GmbH. Two visionaries – Professor Würth and Roland Arnold – believe the unique Space Drive product offers huge potential as a foundation for autonomous driving and a basis for designing entirely new vehicle concepts. Space Drive represents the biggest revolution in mobility since the invention of the automobile.

2015

The Paravan PR power wheelchair series is now complete. What began with the PR 50 in 2008 has developed into a family of wheelchairs consisting of six unique models. In order to strengthen its market presence as a renowned wheelchair manufacturer, Paravan decides to expand its dealership network and invest in its field service. 

Paravan Elektrorollstühle PR Serie Meilenstein
Treffen Zetsche

2015

Uniqueness is confirmed: There is no comparable system anywhere in the world. The members of the Daimler AG Board of Management, under the direction of CEO Dieter Zetsche, have a look at Space Drive II with Prof. Würth and Paravan Managing Director Roland Arnold. All of them believe that the system will serve as the foundation for autonomous driving and limitless mobility for people with disabilities around the globe.

2015

IAA 2015: The transport ministers of the G7 countries visit the Paravan GmbH stand. Paravan holds the key to the autonomous driving of the future.

Produkte von Paravan auf der IAA 2015
Kundin mit 6.000 sechstausendsten umgebauten Auto der Paravan GmbH

2016

The 6,000th Space Drive system is delivered to a happy and satisfied customer. Since the establishment of Paravan GmbH, this unique mobility solution has made the dream of independent mobility come true for thousands of people with a severe disability. Paravan has no intention of stopping here, either:

The realisation of Roland Arnold’s vision and his determination to consistently move forward have created an entirely new situation in which Paravan’s innovative technologies for complete solutions are making it possible for people with severe disabilities to enjoy unrestricted mobility – and a new and better quality of life – for the first time.

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2016

Paravan GmbH receives clearance certificates from Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles for its Space Drive drive-by-wire system, its disability conversions of Mercedes V-Class models, the Paravan docking station and the Paravan cassette lift.

Behindertengerecht umgebaute Mercedes V-Klasse

2016

The great interest expressed by industry in Paravan’s unique drive-by-wire solution continues to increase. Flagship projects in 2016 include:
OLLI project: Fully automated driving in a minibus. A joint project between various partners under the leadership of the US company Local Motors leads to the creation in Phoenix (Arizona) of a self-driving vehicle known as “Olli”, which is presented to the public in Washington, D.C., on 17 June 2016. “Olli” is a self-driving (autonomous) minibus that can be used for future passenger transport operations in urban settings (airports, company sites, amusement parks, train stations). The vehicle can comfortably accommodate up to 12 passengers. Initial small-series production is initiated.

2016

Next 100: Paravan contributed its fail-safe Space Drive II drive-by-wire system to the development of an autonomous/semi-autonomous show car for a major German automotive group. The ISO 26262 (ASIL D)-certified system ensures redundant control of the primary functions of acceleration, braking and steering. The forward-looking vehicle study – which was developed to celebrate a company anniversary – can make its way through traffic fully independently by means of sensor-controlled operation.

BMW Studie Innovation Paravan
Daimler Vision Van Paravan Innovation

2016

Vision Van: On 7 September 2016, Mercedes-Benz Vans presents its adVANce strategic future initiative for the van sector. The “Vision Van” concept vehicle plays a key role. The van of the future is packed with high-tech systems that combine future technological possibilities in the areas of robotics, digitalisation and automation. Also part of the package: Paravan drive-by-wire technology.

2016

SAM Car project: Is it really possible to drive a Corvette ZR06 simply by moving one’s head? Sam Schmidt, a former Indy-car driver who became a paraplegic after a severe accident during a race, says it is – and ultramodern technology from the USA and Germany makes it possible. In a partnership project conducted by the US electronics experts at Arrow Industries and the Swabian drive-by-wire specialists at Paravan, a Corvette ZR06 is modified and rebuilt to allow Sam Schmidt to control the 650-hp racing car safely around a racetrack by means of the most subtle head movements.

The vehicle is driven at the Indianapolis 500 by Sam Schmidt – who ends up setting a new speed record with it. Another highlight is Schmidt’s performance at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, which is one of the toughest auto races in the world.

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Corvette ZR06 steuern über Kopfbewegungen SAM Car Projekt gemeinsam mit Arrow Industries
Paravan Cloui Behindertentransport

2017

From a vision to reality. Roland Arnold recognised early on that the automotive industry was set to undergo a transformation, which is why he decided to focus on creating the “automobile of the future” by further developing his drive-by-wire system. The elimination of the mechanical steering column makes it possible to completely redesign vehicle interiors. Roland Arnold understands that automated driving systems, whether in passenger cars, buses, trucks, tractors, etc., are on their way.

2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Paravan: During her official tour to mark the start of the 67th International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Chancellor Merkel decides to find out about the latest developments at Paravan.

Roland Arnold und Bundeskanzlerin Merkel Treffen auf der IAA 2015
Paravan und Schaeffler gründen ein gemeinsames Joint Venture

2018

Schaeffler Technologies AG & Co. KG and Paravan owner Roland Arnold establish the Schaeffler Paravan Technologie GmbH & Co. KG joint venture on 12 September 2018. The key technology for autonomous driving – the Space Drive system developed by Paravan – is fully incorporated into the joint venture, which then begins to further develop and manufacture the system on an industrial scale.

2019

In year ten of wheelchair production - PARAVAN develops two new innovative electric wheelchairs. The PR 40 and PR 25 models are specially designed with and for the needs of customers. Behind the PR 40 is a multifunctional electric wheelchair with standing, lying, sitting and tilting functions, as well as a new standard biometric sliding backrest, for neurological care as well as muscular dystrophies and all para and quadriplegics, but also suitable for stroke patients. With the PR 25 the user can comfortably descend to the floor. For some people, this is the only way to get into the wheelchair independently, to reach things on the floor or to meet playmates at eye level. The extremely flexible PR25 is particularly suitable for children, small adults and people with dysmelia.

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Rennwagen der Firma Schaeffler Paravan Technologie GmbH & Co. KG Audi R8 LMS GT3

2019

In order to prepare Space Drive optimally for development for series production, Schaeffler Paravan Technologie has been testing the system under the toughest racing conditions. The Audi R8 LMS GT3 manages without any mechanical connection between the steering gear and steering column and is controlled exclusively by a feedback steering unit via electrical signals. The car is the first in the history of motor racing to have a racing licence from the German Motor Sport Association (DMSB) and is entered in the GTC-Race racing series, formerly DMV GTC. The knowledge gained there flows directly into the ongoing development process and thus also directly benefits the solutions in the field of mobility for the disabled.