Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) is looking to increase accessibility options for travellers with mobility issues at Tokyo Narita International Airport, partnering with electronics giant Panasonic Corporation to trial new self-driving electric wheelchairs at the airport.
Jointly developed by Panasonic and Japanese electric wheelchair manufacturer Whill, the vehicles are able to independently detect and avoid obstacles – including other people – while following a predetermined leader to their destination. A member of ANA staff is also on hand to lend assistance and act as a guide.
“Narita Airport is a gateway to Japan for millions of travellers every year and we seek to partner with other leading Japanese innovators to make sure that arrival, departure and making connections are all as convenient as possible,” said Juichi Hirasawa, ANA senior vice president.
“The robotic wheelchairs are just the latest elements in ANA’s multi-faceted approach to improving hospitality in the air and on the ground.”
Earlier this year ANA began trialling driverless buses at Tokyo’s other major airport, Haneda.
Rival Japanese carrier Japan Airlines, meanwhile, began trialling the use of artificial intelligence and voice recognition at its check-in desks at both Tokyo airports to speed up the passenger check-in process.