Airports offer travelers a chance to move as they often need to walk long distances. This is healthy, certainly if you have been sitting for a long time folded up in too small a seat without any legroom. However, there are also passengers with reduced mobility.
Self-driving electric wheelchairs
This group needs assistance. Not only with getting to the baggage claim and exit, but also with making connections on time. Moving from one gate to another that may be far away is a challenge to them. Self-driving electric wheelchairs is an innovation that could offer a smart mobility solution for passengers with mobility issues.
Navigating through the airport
All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Panasonic will work together to test the latest generation of those wheelchairs. Their plan aims at increasing mobility and accessibility options at Tokyo Narita International Airport. Incorporating robotic elements, the wheelchairs will be capable to safely navigate through the airport independently.
“This partnership will make Narita Airport more welcoming and accessible. Both elements are crucial to maintaining the airport's status as a hub for international travel in the years to come,” says Juichi Hirasawa, Senior Vice President of ANA.
Narita International Airport
Narita is the predominant international airport in Japan, handling around 50% of the country's international passenger traffic. In 2017, Narita served nearly 41 million passengers. This makes it the 49th busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger traffic.
Improving customer service…
ANA and Panasonic are planning to run trials on the new electric wheelchairs. Tracking capabilities will allow them to navigate the airport. The wheelchairs are capable of independently detecting and avoiding people and obstacles on the way to their destinations. In addition, ANA staff will be on hand to serve as guides.
…while saving on costs
Through the test with self-driving electric wheelchairs, ANA says it will raise the bar on customer service. It seems that in this particular case cost savings and improved customer service can go hand in hand. The smart electric wheelchairs will make expensive staff pushing traditional wheelchairs through the airport redundant.
ANA will save on wage costs, while travelers with reduced mobility will get more mobility options. A very useful innovation.
Related: “Miracles at the airport”
Tags: self-driving electric wheelchairs, airport accessibility, increasing mobility