Atlanta Airport, in collaboration with Southwest Airlines, is testing self-driving robots that help improve the passenger experience of passengers with reduced mobility.
The self-driving robotic pods help passengers to navigate airports more easily and independently – from reaching the gates to getting food at restaurants – while avoiding objects and people.
The devices are called pods but other airports have them and call them a wheelchair.
The trial in departures in Concourse C is testing to see how well the self-driving pods help passengers with reduced mobility (PRM).
These are passengers who can normally walk short distances and climb stairs independently but need mobilised help to cover longer distances.
For example, a passenger recovering from knee surgery or an elderly passenger who has to get to a far away gate.
Atlanta is probably the world’s busiest airport for passengers. It handles more than 100 million passengers annually. It seems like a natural place to trial such robots.
Jai Farrell, deputy general manager and chief commercial officer, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport:
“We have been looking for advanced mobile robotics solutions to improve operations and found that A&K has the most advanced autonomous micro mobility solution for PRM assistance.
“This is the first time we are testing robots at the departure level and the results are very impressive.
“We are looking forward to expanding the tests and possibly adding A&K’s pods to our existing PRM operations, making it easier for our passengers to navigate the airport.”
The self-driving robotic pods are designed by Vancouver-based A&K Robotics.
A&K specialises in advanced navigation systems and has developed autonomous, electric pods to safely transport people with limited mobility in crowded places, such as airports and malls, while avoiding obstacles and people.
Jessica Yip, COO, A&K Robotics:
“We designed our autonomous platform to positively impact the world, improve quality of life and play a major role in the future of transportation.
“To see our innovation being considered by Atlanta Airport to enhance the travel experience of passengers with limited mobility, is exhilarating.
“We are looking forward to collaborating with the Airport Authority and the Southwest team to bring the best experience possible for the PRMs.”
A number of airlines have trialled self-driving wheelchairs over the past few years. Here are a few stories about them on passengerselfservice.com.
- San José Airport trials autonomous wheelchairs
- Tokyo Haneda Airport to introduce WHILL self-driving wheelchairs
- British Airways trials fully autonomous wheelchairs
- ANA to expand self-driving wheelchair tests at Narita Airport
N.B. Image credit: A&K Robotics