After trials in Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, Tokyo's Haneda airport and Abu Dhabi airport earlier this year, WHILL, the developer of autonomous wheelchairs, is bringing its robotic mobility tech to North America.
Using sensing technologies and automatic brakes, WHILL's wheelchairs detect and avoid obstacles in busy airports, allowing customers to get to their gate faster.
Based in Yokohama, Japan, WHILL has raised roughly $80 million for its technology to bring autonomy to personal mobility.
“When traveling, checking in, getting through security and to the gate on time is critical to avoid the hassle and frustration of missing a flight,” said Satoshi Sugie, the founder and chief executive of WHILL, in a statement. “Travelers with reduced mobility usually have to wait longer times for an employee to bring them a wheelchair and be pushed to their gate, reducing their flexibility while traveling. We are now providing an opportunity for travelers with reduced mobility to have a sense of independence as they move about the airport and get from point A to point B as smoothly as possible."
The company is one of a growing number of startups and established technology companies tackling the massive market of assistive technologies.
The entire population of people with disabilities globally stands at 1 billion, and there are 70 million potential customers for assistive technology products across Europe. If demand in human terms isn’t enough to sway would-be entrepreneurs, then perhaps a recent market report indicating that spending on assistive technologies for the elderly and people with disabilities is projected to reach over $26 billion by 2024 will do the trick.
“Accessibility is a priority for Winnipeg Richardson International Airport and travel is now easier for passengers with limited mobility thanks to our partnership with WHILL. We are excited to be one of the first airports in North America to trial WHILL’s autonomous personal mobility devices with our travelers.”