Tokyo Haneda International Airport is to become the first airport to deploy self-driving wheelchairs from Japanese company WHILL.
Passengers departing from Terminal 1 who have difficulty walking long-distances and those with limited mobility can use the wheelchairs to get to Gates 3 through 7.
Once they reach the gate, the passenger alights and the device self-drives back to its base ready for the next passenger.
The wheelchairs have an autonomous driving, anti-collision function. The self-driving works by layering its surrounding information detected by sensors with map information about the area collected in advance.
WHILL has conducted multiple trials of its autonomous drive system since 2019.
A total of 11 trials have been conducted so far at airports, including Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Abu Dhabi International Airport, Winnipeg International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport (USA).
Satoshi Sugie, CEO of WHILL:
“In the coronavirus era, we believe services that support mobility while maintaining social distancing will accelerate to replace human labor with robots and autonomous driving technologies.”
All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Panasonic Corporation ran tests of self-driving electric wheelchairs at Tokyo Narita International Airport in 2019.
N.B. Image credit: WHILL