It is pretty hard for those with disabilities to get around airports. It is about to get easier for those in Japan, though. Passengers with limited mobility will soon be able to navigate airports more easily thanks to Panasonic’s robotic electric wheelchair.
Developed as part of a wider program to make Japan’s Haneda Airport more accessible to all, the wheelchair uses autonomous mobility technology: users just input their destination via smartphone into the wheelchair and it will identify its position and select the best route to get there. This will certainly make things easier for the handicapped.
Even better, multiple chairs can move in tandem, so families or groups can travel together, and after use, the chairs will ‘regroup’ automatically, meaning that the airport staff won’t have to wrangle them. The chairs also use sensors to stop automatically if they detect a potential collision. It sounds like they have thought of everything.
The chairs will be tested between now and March 2018 along with a number of other initiatives from Panasonic and NTT. Other programs include eliminating language barriers using smartphone object recognition technology, reducing passenger congestion through crowd analysis technology and clearer intelligent audio signage for those with impaired vision. We can only hope that other airports try these things as well.