2 MARCH 2020
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Fully-autonomous electric mobility devices have been put on trial by British Airways in North America as part of a programme to care for passengers with hidden and visible disabilities.
The airline says almost half a million customers who require additional assistance fly with it each year and with this number due to rise by 10% by 2021, it is exploring new ways to offer a seamless travel experience.
These include trialling the self-driving, self-navigating, electric vehicles from Japanese technology firm WHILL at New York JFK Airport. Equipped with anti-collision technology, they allow passengers to set a destination anywhere within the airport.
The vehicle then safely navigates the terminal without the need for assistance from travel companions or the airport support team who are currently responsible for escorting passengers from check-in directly to the boarding gate.
On reaching the gate, the passenger alights and the device self-drives back to the docking station. BA head of innovation Ricardo Vidal said the trial was a direct response to passenger requests for greater independence and control over navigating through the airport.
Further trials are now planned at BA’s home hub at Heathrow Terminal 5 to gather more feedback.
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