The preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games are underway in Tokyo. One of Japan’s main airports is focused on making the landing as convenient as possible for travelers with disabilities. Self-driving chairs, fitted with sensors are already being tested in the airport and will soon become a reality.
How do these chairs help?
People with disabilities can use these chairs to navigate themselves to the exit gate or to a shop in the airport by feeding a destination point into the chair. The crowded nature of an airport was kept in mind while developing these chairs. Thus, they can automatically pull a luggage cart along without it getting lost on the way. With image recognition, these smart wheelchairs can easily avoid obstacles and crowds.
Panasonic further goes on to say that these chairs run on autonomous mobility technology which enables the chair to perform tasks like identifying its location and selecting the best route to get to a destination. These wheelchairs also allow family members to travel in a group across the airport
How can one avail of this option?
Autonomous self-driving chairs can be obtained with the help of a special app. Visitors merely have to put in their destination, store or exit and the WHILL NEXT wheelchair will use image recognition and sensors to make its way to the desired location. It will automatically halt if there is a possibility of a collision.
After the visitor has reached his destination, the wheelchairs will stick together and return to their original point, without the need of airport staff. These chairs travel up to 15 miles and go all the way up to 5.5 mph.
Where can one find them?
The massive Haneda Airport, which covers the Greater Tokyo Metro Area, has taken the lead in testing out these autonomous app-controlled wheelchairs that will be used to help travellers navigate around the airport and perhaps, even transport ring their luggage without any hassle. All of this is expected to be in place before the Summer Olympics to be held in Tokyo in 2020.
The company is all set to test the Automatic Stop, Mobility and Moving in Tandem features which will help make these chairs a very convenient option to have in airports.
The brain behind the invention
Created by Panasonic and WHILL Inc., these chairs are part of a wider program aimed to promote the use of robots in airports to manage various tasks from transportation to providing information. The New Energy and Industrial technology Development Organization (NEDO) has helped by providing grants for this project.
Panasonic is also working on a route information provider called Jorudan, which will serve as a multilingual portal that enables easy booking. The NTT’s Kazashite Guidance is another initiative geared toward creating a website that translates all kinds of information in the airport, without the need for any software.
Better voice guidance and the ability to measure passenger congestion are also being worked on, as part of their project. This wheelchair which was first exhibited at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2011 received a positive response and proved that people wanted such an innovation and the freedom it offered.
For people with mobility issues, these self-driven wheelchairs that will soon grace airports in Tokyo, is certainly being seen as a positive sign.