Self-driving wheelchairs to increase accessibility at Tokyo Narita International Airport

Self-driving wheelchairs to increase accessibility at Tokyo Narita International Airport



Image: Narita International Airport, jet planes


Tokyo Narita International Airport will become more accessible for passengers with reduced mobility due to the new self-driving electric wheelchairs. Incorporating robotic elements, these wheelchairs will be capable to safely navigate through the airport independently, making them an ideal mobility solution for passengers connecting flights. 

Since Narita Airport is an international hub, many travelers must walk a long distance to reach their connecting flights. The airport's size and a high volume of activity can make this inconvenient, and this difficulty is only compounded for elderly travelers with mobility issues. In order to meet these demands and keep Narita Airport operating at the highest level, All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan's largest airline and Panasonic Corporation will work together to run trials on new electric wheelchairs which boast tracking capabilities that allow them to navigate the bustling airport.


"Narita Airport is a gateway to Japan for millions of travelers every year and we seek to partner with other leading Japanese innovators to make sure that arrival, departure and making connections are all as convenient as possible," said Juichi Hirasawa, Senior Vice President of ANA. "ANA's partnership with Panasonic will make Narita Airport more welcoming and accessible, both of which are crucial to maintaining the airport's status as a hub for international travel in the years to come. The robotic wheelchairs are just the latest element in ANA's multi-faceted approach to improving hospitality in the air and on the ground."

The self-driving electric wheelchair jointly developed by Panasonic and WHILL Co., Ltd., is capable of independently detecting and avoid people and obstacles on the way to their destinations.

Image: people with self-driving wheelchairs at Narita airport while testing
Testing at Narita airport (Source)


The wheelchairs function by following a predetermined leader to a common destination, and ANA staff will be on hand to serve as guides. The smart elements and adaptability make the wheelchairs a perfect fit for Narita Airport, particularly in helping passengers reach their connections on time.


Image: a self-driving wheelchair
New electric wheelchairs will help disabled travelers to navigate the bustling airport (Source)


By modernizing accessibility at Narita Airport, ANA and Panasonic are looking for ways to offer practical innovation for travelers.