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Mon 16 Dec 2019 02:31 PM

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Autonomous wheelchairs trial completed at Abu Dhabi International

Innovative wheelchairs for passengers with restricted mobility could be introduced at new Abu Dhabi airport terminal

Autonomous wheelchairs trial completed at Abu Dhabi International

The trials involved over 60 guests with restricted mobility, who self-drove the wheelchairs, navigating crowded areas and lounges before safely arriving at their gate.

Etihad Airways, together with its partners Abu Dhabi Airports and WHILL, have completed trials of their autonomous wheelchairs at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

The trials ran earlier this month and were phase two of the pilot project, which was launched in September.

The trials involved over 60 guests with restricted mobility, who self-drove the wheelchairs, navigating crowded areas and lounges before safely arriving at their gate.

Upon completion of the guest journey, the wheelchairs returned autonomously back to the docking station without requiring any human interference, a statement said.

Etihad Airways and Abu Dhabi International Airport are the first airline and airport in the region to trial an autonomous wheelchair option.

Intensive mapping and trialing of the wheelchairs will continue over the coming weeks, before a comprehensive evaluation will determine the viability of the wheelchairs in the Midfield Terminal, it added. 

The WHILL autonomous wheelchairs are fitted with sensors that detect obstructions and have an automatic ‘stop’ function, enabling the trial participants to travel around the airport independently of Etihad Airways or Abu Dhabi International Airport staff.

Mohammad Al Bulooki, chief operating officer, Etihad Aviation Group said: “The feedback we received from guests who participated in these trials was overwhelmingly positive, and I look forward to the possibility of offering our guests the choice of autonomous wheelchairs in the future.

"Etihad’s commitment to innovation remains strong, and we’re proud to invest in trials and projects like this, that give our guests a truly unique, seamless and independent experience when travelling with Etihad Airways.

Ahmed Al Shamisi, acting chief operations officer of Abu Dhabi Airports, added: “Convenience is one of the most important factors in the traveler experience today. We want to make it even easier for passengers to enjoy our airports with ease. Through these trials, we have shown that restricted mobility passengers and their families can enjoy greater freedom of movement while still ensuring that the technology can be used safely and securely in our facilities.”

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