Mineta San José International Airport completes trials of autonomous wheelchairs

Mineta San José International Airport (SJC) has trialled a new, tech-forward option for travellers to arrive at their boarding gate. From 11 to 14 March, it tested the use of no-fee, walk-up, autonomous power chairs made by mobility device developer, WHILL.

Passengers could simply select a destination on a screen, with the device independently navigating through the terminal to their gate, then automatically driving itself back to its base at the security checkpoint. For safety, the device is equipped with an automatic collision avoidance system.

“We understand that our customers are the heart of our operation, and as Silicon Valley’s airport, we welcome innovation,” said John Aitken, SJC Airport Director. “Pilots like this help us continue to strive to stay ahead of our customers’ needs.”

SJC implemented the four-day pilot in response to customer interest in the concept, while emphasising it would not replace existing wheelchair services that require staff escorting provided by airlines. The WHILL devices are intended to supplement existing wheelchair service, aimed at passengers who might want assistance reaching gates located further distances from the security checkpoint, but do not reserve a wheelchair.

“Our device not only increases the mobility of customers looking to travel, but also increases their independence and overall experience, while at the same time improving airport operations and efficiency,” said Shannon Fain, Director of Business Development for North America, WHILL.

The company has successfully implemented the autonomous devices at Tokyo Haneda International Airport, and has had trials at Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Atlanta, New York/JFK, and Grand Rapids airports.



Comments are closed.