No Push Required: BA Tests Autonomous Wheelchairs At JFK

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

British Airways is testing out an autonomous electric wheelchair for people with mobility needs at JFK airport in New York City.

Built by Silicon Valley-based tech firm Whill, the high-tech vehicle incorporates anti-collision technology and lets the rider use a touchscreen to select from a range of destinations within the airport.

“The vehicle safely navigates the terminal without the need for assistance from travel companions or the airport support team, currently responsible for escorting customers from check-in directly to the boarding gate,” British Airways said in a release detailing the trial.

The rider can change their destination at any point, and also select multiple places to visit on their way to the boarding gate. After the rider exits the vehicle at the gate, the machine returns to the docking station by itself, ready for the next person.

British Airways says almost half a million of its customers require additional assistance each year, and so the airline is keen to explore new ways to offer them a more comfortable travel experience.

“Our customers tell us they would like greater independence and control over their journey through the airport, so we were keen to trial autonomous devices and see our customers’ response to the very latest mobility technology in a real airport environment,” Ricardo Vidal, British Airways’ head of innovation, said in a press release.

He added that further testing of the service will be carried out at LHR over the next few months with a view to introducing the technology alongside its team of customer service staff.

Anna Kroupina

Anna Kroupina Journalist

Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.

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