A futuristic electric wheelchair aimed at making passenger journeys in airports smoother has begun trial at two new US hubs following successful trials at airports including Abu Dhabi earlier this year.
The WHILL, designed by Satoshi Sugie, is being tested at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Winnipeg Richardson International Airport (YWG) as part of Sugie’s plan to roll the mobility aid out across transport hubs.
This is the second wave of WHILL autonomous trials, which appeared in Haneda Airport and Abu Dhabi Airport earlier this year and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol previously.
Trials in Dallas took place earlier this month while Winnipeg semi-autonomous trials will take place in December.
After arriving at the airport, travellers with restricted mobility will be able to navigate the WHILL airport model through the airport to their gate and once arrived, hit “return,” allowing the wheelchair to return itself to the original docking station.
Full autonomous trials are slightly different from semi-autonomous trials as the WHILL airport model will freely drive itself to the desired destination upon the passenger selecting the required gate on the device, and then back to the original docking station.
The WHILL airport model independently detects and avoids obstacles throughout the airport, including other people and objects, with sensors and automatic brakes.
Satoshi Sugie, founder and CEO of WHILL, said: “When traveling, checking in, getting through security and to the gate on time is critical to avoid the hassle and frustration of missing a flight. Travellers with reduced mobility usually have to wait longer times for an employee to bring them a wheelchair and be pushed to their gate, reducing their flexibility while traveling.”
“We are now providing an opportunity for travellers with reduced mobility to have a sense of independence as they move about the airport and get from point A to point B as smoothly as possible. Our trials have proven to be successful in other countries and we’re excited to bring this initiative to North America for the first time.”