Passengers with limited mobility will soon be able to navigate airports more easily thanks to Panasonic's robotic electric wheelchair. Developed as part of a wider program to make Japan's Haneda Airport more accessible to all, the wheelchair utilizes autonomous mobility technology: after users input their destination via smartphone the wheelchair will identify its position and select the best route to get there.
Multiple chairs can move in tandem which means families or groups can travel together, and after use, the chairs will 'regroup' automatically, reducing the workload for airport staff. The chairs also use sensors to stop automatically if they detect a potential collision.
The chairs will be tested between now and March 2018 alongside a number of other initiatives devised by Panasonic and NTT. Other programs include eliminating language barriers through smartphone object recognition technology (so just point your smartphone at a sign for a translation), reducing passenger congestion through crowd analysis technology and clearer intelligent audio signage for those with impaired vision.