Kadoma, Japan, August 8 — Panasonic is testing out high-tech hospitality solutions at the Haneda Airport in Tokyo, also known as the international gateway to Japan. One of these solutions is a self-driving “robotic” electric wheelchair that helps visitors with mobility challenges to get around.
Panasonic and WHILL worked together to build the WHILL NEXT, a smart electric wheelchair that transports people requiring mobility support. They will test the solution on both international and domestic terminals from the 8th of August 2017 until the 31st of March 2018.
This year they are doing a test run of the product, which is officially referred to as a mobility robot, at the Haneda Airport in Japan. They are planning to trial the autonomous driving of the wheelchair as well as extended functions such as automatic stop, getting around autonomously, and tandem movement.
The units are equipped with sensors to detect nearby objects such as people, luggage or other obstacles. When the wheelchair identifies an obstacle, it stops to avoid a collision.
It’s often the case for travelers that they are not familiar with an airport and that they don’t know their way around. That’s where the WHILL NEXT wheelchair can also help them get to their destination in time. The system can accept input via smartphone, understands where it is and then chooses the best route for you to reach a particular location.
If a group of people with limited mobility abilities needs to stay together, the wheelchairs will link up in tandem mode and stay together in single file. Once the wheelchairs are done with their job, they will automatically return to their charging and maintenance stations. This kind of autonomy helps the airport staff as well as the customers.
About future plans of this solution, Panasonic writes in their press release, “The results of this public testing will be used to implement/adopt ICT in preparation for 2020 and beyond. We will also continue to seek corporate partners to participate in joint trials.” We are looking forward to seeing more technology that helps people in the future.
YouTube: Robotic Electric Wheelchair WHILL NEXT & LinkRay Signage – Hospitality Solutions at Haneda Airport
Photo credit: Panasonic
Source: Panasonic press release