San José International Airport pilots autonomous passenger wheelchairs
In a recent pilot project, Mineta San José International Airport trialled a new and tech-forward option for passengers to arrive at their boarding gates using autonomous wheelchairs.
Mineta San José International Airport (SJC) has trialled the use of no-fee, walk-up, autonomous power chairs, which is a new, tech-forward option for passengers to arrive at their boarding gates.
The autonomous wheelchairs are free and easy to use: passengers simply select a destination on a screen and the device independently navigates through the terminal to their gate, then automatically drives itself back to its base at the security checkpoint. For safety, the device is equipped with an automatic collision avoidance system. SJC welcomed the four-day pilot in response to passenger interest in this concept, though it would not replace existing wheelchair services that require staff escorting provided by airlines. The devices are intended to supplement existing wheelchair service, aimed at passengers who might want assistance reaching gates located further distances from the security checkpoint, but do not reserve a wheelchair.
SJC Airport Director, John Aitken commented: “We understand that our customers are the heart of our operation, and as Silicon Valley’s airport, we welcome innovation. Pilots like this help us continue to strive to stay ahead of our customers’ needs.”
The autonomous devices have already been successfully implemented at Haneda International Airport (HNA) in Tokyo, Japan, and has had trials domestically at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport (ATL), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), and Grand Rapids airports.
However, SJC is the first West Coast airport to introduce this innovation.
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport (ATL), Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Mineta San José International Airport (SJC)