All Nippon Airways (ANA) is expanding its trial of self-driving wheelchairs at Narita Airport (NRT).
The airline initially started a trial of the self-driving wheelchairs in May without passengers. After a series of successful tests, ANA is now preparing to test the wheelchairs with real passengers.
With large distances between gates separating some connecting flights, ANA employs approximately 300 wheelchairs per day to help passengers who need assistance reach their gates quickly and conveniently.
The self-driving electric wheelchairs are capable of independently detecting and avoiding people and obstacles on the way to their destinations. The wheelchairs function by following a predetermined leader to a common destination. ANA staff will be on hand to serve as guides.
ANA plans to conduct tests of the self-driving wheelchair at Tokyo-Narita Airport from October 9 until November 28.
Full roll-out at Narita Airport is planned for after 2020.
Juichi Hirasawa, Senior Vice President of ANA:
ANA has always prioritized making our services accessible, and we strive to set the standard for both technological innovation and accessibility so these tests will go a long way towards making sure that the full benefits of Narita Airport are open to all passengers.
“The self-driving wheelchairs integrate the latest smart technology to help those that are unfamiliar with Narita Airport reach their gates on time. ANA aims to simplify all aspects of the travel experience and these self-driving wheelchairs will help take some of the stress out of making connections at the airport.”
N.B. Image credit: All Nippon Airways