According to a new report, British Airways is trying out autonomous wheelchairs to help disabled passengers roam around airports freely and independently. Currently, if you go to JFK Airport in NY, you might catch a glimpse of these autonomous wheelchairs running around the compound.
Manufactured by a company named Whill, this Silicon Valley tech firm builds personal EVs to help people who lost their ability to walk. Their autonomous wheelchairs are capable of taking riders to their destinations automatically. The company makes two models – the Model Ci and Model A. While the Model Ci is ultra-portable, Model A is a bigger version that is ideal for outdoor use. The British airline company is using the Model Ci for airport mobility.
According to British Airways, close to 500,000 of its passengers require special assistance. These passengers often say that they would like even more if they can roam around the airport without assistance from the ground staff.
“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,”, said the airline company’s head of innovation, Ricardo Vidal.
With these autonomous wheelchairs, passengers will be able to use a touch screen to select a destination within the airport and the wheelchair will take them there automatically. The EVs use an anti-collision tech to analyse the road ahead and avoid bumping into other passengers. After dropping off the rider at the selected destination, the wheelchairs will return to their initial station automatically to get its next rider.
The Model Ci is capable of reaching a top speed of 5 mph (8 kmph), so do not expect it to take you to the boarding gates in a jiffy. However, with the anti-collision tech and a ground clearance of 2.25″, you can expect to get a smooth ride.
The head of innovation for the company also said that they will be testing the autonomous wheelchairs in the UK’s Heathrow Airport also. It will be incorporated in the coming months. The main aim of British Airways is to provide independency to its disabled passengers and help them roam freely, without any staff pushing them around.