30 Aug
Panasonic Rolls Out Autonomous Wheelchairs at Japanese Airport Panasonic Rolls Out Autonomous Wheelchairs at Japanese Airport

Panasonic Rolls Out Autonomous Wheelchairs at Japanese Airport

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Japan's Haneda Airport has made use of global design concepts to boost interest in the creation of airports that are user-friendly for all people -- especially in its international terminal. Given that the airport expects a rise in the number of foreign visitors over the next three or so years -- and also of mobility-challenged customers as the population continues to grow older -- it only makes sense to emphasize new technological developments to make everyone's flying experience as comfortable as possible.

This includes the WHILL NEXT, "a mobility robot that enables safe, comfortable transport for Passengers with Reduced Mobility (PRM), whose use of airports is expected to increase," according to a press release from Panasonic, which developed the robot with WHILL, Inc.

Features include the following:

  • Automatic Stopping: Sensors on the robot can recognize nearby obstacles and instruct the machine to automatically stop if a potential accident is identified. This could be the result of a sudden lurch or operator mistake. The stop feature could prove useful to users who are just beginning to become familiar with the robot's controls.
  • Autonomous Mobility: This technology is the same that's being used for an autonomous delivery robot known as HOSPI. The wheelchair can select routes, identify its own position, and automatically send itself to destinations that have been inputted to the chair via smartphone. The tech also permits the WHILL NEXT to efficiently transport its occupant to boarding gates and even nearby shops.
  • Tandem Movement: A group or family using several of the autonomous wheelchairs can travel together in a column. Then, once finished with their assignment, the chairs return to their normal locations, saving employees extra work.
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Read 1631 times Last modified on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 09:47
Jim Lillie

Jim began writing for newspapers and designing for publishing companies at a time when both industries were just beginning to make the switch from manual to digital platforms. Jim lives in Boulder, Colorado with his teenage son.

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