This Airport Tech Makes Flying Easier for Passengers With Disabilities
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
A Japanese tech startup wants to make travel easier for US airline passengers who need a wheelchair — a group of about 20 million flyers every year.
The company, WHILL, is known for its innovative personal electric vehicles (EVs) and has just raised a $45 million in funding to help expand its products into US airports and other large venues around the world. Its latest project is an autonomous personal mobility device system developed specifically to help travelers with disabilities navigate airports — and soon, it might be coming to a terminal near you.
Let’s start at the beginning. Air travel for disabled passengers in the US desperately needs an update. Passengers in wheelchairs are frequently left waiting on airport employees for mobility, which in the hands of a stranger tends to be significantly limited and inflexible. WHILL’s new personal EV is projected to alleviate this issue by using autonomous technology. Meaning these electronic wheelchairs are self-driving and self-docking, removing the middleman from the equation altogether and giving the user full control.
The technology operates through sensors and cameras that are controlled through a mobile app by the customer, summoning their personal EV to go wherever they please. “They can go wherever they want — coffee shops, restrooms, shops — before heading to the gate without an assistant,” TechCrunch says. When the user is done with their personal EV, the wheelchairs are programmed to return to their docking station without any further human assistance. The EV’s are also programmed to take on various forms of terrain and can operate indoors and outdoors.
WHILL is now looking into how to expand the product into US airports. A similar version of this project is already being testing in Tokyo International Airport in a partnership with Panasonic.
The project would be a heavy left for US airports, as they would need to build the all new infrastructure to house the personal EVs. But, as age demographics shift, WHILL only expects the demand for such technologies to increase in the coming years.
Featured Image by Gilmanshin via Getty Images
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
- Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.