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An airline is testing technology to make travel easier for people with disabilities

ANA testing self driving wheelchair
Photo: ANA

For a number of months now, All Nippon Airways has been testing personal mobility, self-driving electric wheelchairs at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport (NRT). The test is part of the airline’s larger plan to help increase accessibility options at the busy hub.

The robotic chairs operate in a follow-the-leader fashion to reach a destination. The chairs are also capable of detecting and avoiding obstacles, though airline employees serve as guides.

Until now, testing hasn’t included actual passengers, but All Nippon Airways (often called ANA) just announced it’s expanding the tests so passengers can experience this innovative technology firsthand. The tests are scheduled to run from Oct. 9 through Nov. 28, with the hope that the chairs can be made available airport-wide after 2020.

Senior vice-president Juichi Hirasawa said in a statement that “ANA has always prioritised making our services accessible, and we strive to set the standard for both technological innovation and accessibility so these tests will go a long way towards making sure that the full benefits of Narita Airport are open to all passengers.”

ANA uses nearly 300 wheelchairs per day to help transport passengers between gates. The robotic chairs will hopefully help in getting passengers to their connections on time and in a more efficient manner.

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