October 11 2019  |  Airline & Terminal News

ANA expands self-driving wheelchair tests at NRT

By Jane Hobson

All Nippon Airways (ANA) is expanding the self-driving wheelchair tests at Tokyo-Narita International Airport (NRT) from October 9 until November 28 as part of its efforts to increase accessibility using technology. The wheelchairs initially debuted for testing in May.

Aiming for a 2020 roll-out, the trial will be conducted with actual passengers and ANA staff will be on hand to serve as guides. The self-driving electric wheelchairs are capable of independently detecting and avoiding people and obstacles. They function by following a predetermined leader to a common destination.

According to a release from the airline, “The smart elements and adaptability make the wheelchairs a perfect fit for the innovative and technologically-advanced Narita Airport.”

With large distances between gates separating some connecting flights, ANA employs approximately 300 wheelchairs per day to help passengers who need assistance reach their gates.

“The self-driving wheelchairs integrate the latest smart technology to help those that are unfamiliar with Narita Airport reach their gates on time,” said Juichi Hirasawa, Senior Vice President of ANA, in the release. “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."

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