British Airways trials fully autonomous wheelchairs

Trial to help passengers navigate terminal independently

British Airways is trialling state-of-the-art, fully autonomous vehicles at JFK Airport to help passengers navigate the airport terminal freely and independently.

The devices are equipped with anti-collision technology and allow passengers to set their preferred destination anywhere within the airport. The vehicle safely navigates the terminal without the need for assistance from travel companions or the airport support team, currently responsible for escorting passengers from check-in directly to the boarding gate.

Offering additional independence for passengers who are unable to walk long distances but may not have their own wheelchair, the autonomous mobility devices give passengers the freedom to explore the airport at their leisure, changing destination as many times as they like on their way to the boarding gate. Once they reach the gate, the passengers alights and the device will self-drive back to the docking station ready for the next passenger.

Autonomous devices are the latest innovation to complement the airline’s investment in passenger service, including the introduction of a specialist accessibility team.

Almost half a million passengers who require additional assistance fly with British Airways each year and with this number due to rise by 10 per cent by 2021 the airline is exploring new ways to offer a seamless travel experience, including trialling self-driving, self-navigating, electric vehicles from Japanese technology firm, WHILL.

Heathrow trials

Over the next few months BA will be introducing a further trial at Heathrow Terminal 5 to gather more feedback and explore the introduction of this technology.

N.B. Image credit: British Airways (BA)

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British Airways (BA)