By Evie Carrick
May 22, 2019
Credit: Courtesy of ANA and Panasonic

As every well-traveled person knows, getting from one end of the airport to the other can be a trek — especially when you have a short period of time to make a connecting flight. This problem is only compounded for those with mobility issues. To address this challenge, Japan’s largest airline, All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Panasonic Corporation have teamed up to test self-driving electric wheelchairs at Narita International Airport.

Credit: Courtesy of ANA and Panasonic

The new-generation wheelchairs have tracking capabilities that allow them to navigate the airport independently while detecting and avoiding obstacles along the way. The new chairs ensure that travelers don’t have to rely on airport staff to get to their gate or the baggage claim, providing independence and helping make transfers and arrivals more efficient.

The testing ground for the new technology — Narita International Airport — is a large, high volume international airport where many travelers must walk a long distance to reach their connecting flights.

In a statement from Panasonic, Juichi Hirasawa, senior vice president of ANA, said, "ANA's partnership with Panasonic will make Narita Airport more welcoming and accessible, both of which are crucial to maintaining the airport's status as a hub for international travel in the years to come. The robotic wheelchairs are just the latest element in ANA's multi-faceted approach to improving hospitality in the air and on the ground."