Powerchairs move in to help with airport social distancing issue


WHILL has confirmed that Haneda International Airport will be utilizing the WHILL Autonomous Drive System to help passengers with reduced mobility while also helping to prevent spread of infection.

It has been described as a first-of-its-kind solution being applied with the intention of addressing the COVID-19 situation impacting the world.

WHILL has conducted multiple trials of its autonomous drive system since 2019 in an effort to work towards establishing a seamless transportation experience for passengers at airports, taking them through to their departure gates.

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The WHILL Autonomous Drive System with self-driving technology was developed by WHILL to support those who have difficulty walking long-distances and individuals with limited mobility.

CEO of the firm, Satoshi Sugie, said: “In the coronavirus era, we believe services that support mobility while maintaining social distancing will accelerate to replace human labor with robots and autonomous driving technologies.”

Adding: “WHILL wants to provide a safe service that connects the last mile. We look forward to rapidly developing our business in order to help restore a world where people can move around with peace of mind and enjoyment.”

Trials have been conducted at airports across the globe, including Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (USA), Abu Dhabi International Airport (Arab Emirates), Winnipeg International Airport (Canada) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (USA) and more in an effort to steadily improve the accuracy, usability, and compatibility for airport operations in self-driving technology.

A total of 11 trials have been conducted so far, with nearly 400 passengers and airport officials using the WHILL self-driving system.

The goal of the Autonomous Drive System is to reduce the risk of spreading infection through contact between wheelchair service staff and passengers at close range, as well as helping to optimize the current Passengers with Reduced Mobility (PRM) service operation.

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Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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