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Mobility Machine Needs No Help at Tokyo Airport

This photo provided by WHILL, Inc., shows the trial of the company's Autonomous Drive System at Haneda Airport in Tokyo in November, 2019.
Mobility Machine Needs No Help at Tokyo Airport
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Call it a mobility system or a wheelchair – it can be seen at the Tokyo airport moving on its own.

It is helping with social distancing while fighting the spread of the coronavirus. It also helps older passengers and those who otherwise need assistance walking the last few steps to the boarding gate.

The mobility system seats one person and runs on its own without hitting anything. It has a pre-programmed path of about 600 meters at Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport. It was shown Monday by WHILL, the company behind the technology.

WHILL Chief Executive Satoshi Sugie said robotics and self-driving technology reduce the need for a human at the wheel. They are good for these times of “living with” coronavirus.

“We are…developing our business in order to help restore a world where people can enjoy moving around with peace of mind,” he told The Associated Press.

The ride lasts several minutes. It travels from the security area to the boarding gate at a speed of 3.5 kilometers per hour. But many people hope the technology can help in other places, such as hospitals or parks. The technology uses sensors and cameras to see a clear path and avoid hitting those walking toward it.

It could also help Japan free up laborers. Japan, like many other nations, suffers from a labor shortage. The technology could free a worker to do another job.

Tests have been carried out at several airports since last year, including John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The company hopes to put it in airports around the world.

The person on the machine can start or stop it through a simple controller. It runs on batteries and is programmed to return to where it started when its passenger gets off.

Anyone needing help walking long distances can use it at Terminal One at Haneda airport. It is called the “last-mile mobility,” says WHILL.

I’m Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

mobility adj. the ability to move

boarding gate– n. the place to leads to the airplane

robotics n. machine that do human tasks

sensor– n. a light that senses motion

battery– n. a energy storage device