Japanese carrier ANA has expanded trial tests of its self-driving wheelchair at Tokyo’s Narita Airport until November 28 this year.
The wheelchairs, jointly developed by Panasonic and Japanese electric wheelchair manufacturer Whill, initially debuted in May this year.
The airline says Narita Airport has been selected to conduct the trial tests because of its status as a prominent international hub.
Given the large distances between gates of some connecting gates at the airport, ANA now employs around 300 wheelchairs per day to help passengers who need assistance to reach their gates quickly and conveniently.
During this period, actual passengers will also be involved in the trial tests.
ANA aims to fully implement these self-driving wheelchairs at Narita Airport after 2020.
The self-driving electric wheelchairs are capable of independently detecting and avoiding obstacles on their way, including other people. An ANA staff member will be on hand to serve as a guide as well.
“ANA has always prioritised making our services accessible, and we strive to set the standard for both technological innovation and accessibility so these tests will go a long way towards making sure that the full benefits of Narita Airport are open to all passengers,” said Juichi Hirasawa, senior vice president of ANA.
“The self-driving wheelchairs integrate the latest smart technology to help those that are unfamiliar with Narita Airport reach their gates on time. ANA aims to simplify all aspects of the travel experience and these self-driving wheelchairs will help take some of the stress out of making connections at the airport.”
In 2020, passengers travelling through Narita Airport may also be able to experience end-to-end facial recognition.
Earlier this year, ANA also started to trial driverless buses at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, while another Japanese carrier Japan Airlines began to test out AI-powered voice recognition technology at the international check-in counters at both Narita and Haneda Airports.