A new Uber-style app will soon allow people in airports, exhibition halls and hospitals to summon autonomous wheelchairs to help them get around easier, thanks to an industry partnership.
The creators of an innovative powerchair system and an equipment rental and repair firm have merged to launch the new mobility service for public areas around the world.
The WHILL powerchair launched in the UK 2017 and quickly became recognisable for its space-age looks. It has now teamed with US company Scootaround, which provides a mobility device rental, repair and service platform at around 2,500 sites.
The pair have merged to form a worldwide platform for assistive devices and provide a Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) model that can be implemented everywhere to improve travel for people with mobility issues.
The MaaS model would allow wheelchair users to simply use an app to call a mobility device over to them and go wherever they want without the need of assistance. Once they are done with the device, it will return to a docking station on its own.
Initially, the service will be targeted at large public areas like airports, hospitals and theme parks but it could be rolled out to general public spaces if it is a success. A number of major airlines and convention centres have signed up to the scheme already.
The scheme will start in the US where WHILL has the backing of a platform like Scootaround but plans on replicating itself elsewhere. The UK does not currently have an exact equivalent to Scootaround.
Satoshi Sugie, founder and CEO of WHILL, which launched a more affordable version of the powerchair recently, said that the partnership’s vision is to “evolve the worldwide mobility transportation industry”.
“We are taking WHILL’s technology – unlike any other mobility technology out there – and combining it with the best mobility and rental service from Scootaround to create a world that will help people with mobility issues increase their independence.”
Kerry Renaud, CEO and managing director of Scootaround, said: “We are very active in the mobility market and joining forces with WHILL and its cutting-edge mobility technology was a progressive move to meet the market demand for enhanced service and superior products.
“Together, we are allowing someone who requires a form of mobility assistance to travel seamlessly from their origin to final destination – whether that be at the airport, at their hotel, residence, resort, and so on.”