British Airways has become the first airline to trial fully autonomous, electric mobility devices in North America.
The company describes the move as a continuation of its aim to become the airline of choice for customers with both hidden and visible disabilities.
The airline said that with almost half a million customers requiring additional assistance each year, which is expected to rise by 10% by 2021, the airline is exploring new ways to offer a seamless travel experience.
This includes the trialling self-driving, self-navigating, electric vehicles from Japanese technology firm, WHILL.
The devices, which were exclusively trialled by British Airways customers at New York’s JFK Airport, are equipped with anti-collision technology and allow customers to set their preferred destination anywhere within the airport.
Ricardo Vidal, British Airways’ head of innovation, says the airline is trialling autonomous mobility devices as a direct response to customer feedback.
He explained: “Our customers tell us they would like greater independence and control over their journey through the airport, so we were keen to trial autonomous devices and see our customers response to the very latest mobility technology in a real airport environment.
Adding: “Over the next few months we will be collaborating on a further trial at our busy home hub at Heathrow Terminal 5 to gather more feedback and explore the introduction of this technology alongside our team of customer service professionals to provide a truly seamless and accessible airport experience.
“I’m excited about the future of inclusive innovation to support the accelerating demand for accessible air travel.”