b'PHOTO: WINNIPEG AIRPORTS AUTHORITY50 YWGPASSENGER TRANSPORT The Winnipeg Airports Authority plans to add more autonomous wheelchairs as usage increases and the technology matures. and to the gates. Through multiple trials and mapping and sothat act as drive path indicators and location markers to localize forth, we were able to create the service as it is today, and it reallythe device in the service area. Every chair also comes with two has grown, Rosset remarks.batteries and a charger. Once a passenger arrives at the gate and transfers to gateWHILLs fleet management system allows an on-site company seating, the wheelchair detects that the user has disembarkedrepresentative to track the wheelchairs on a mobile tablet and and starts a 60-second countdown. After the countdown isensure they are all working as intended. If any issues arise or a complete, the chair returns to a staging area near the check-inchairs battery level drops below 20%, the operational dashboard counters for the next user. Currently, YWG has four autonomousautomatically notifies the WHILL representative. At YWG, the wheelchairs, and the service is available on the domestic andrepresentative typically doesnt have to replace a battery in an international sides of the airport. eight-hour shift. Because each chair comes with two batteries, Passengers can request a chair in advance or after they checkPHL can essentially run chairs 24/7 by swapping out their their bags. A WHILL representative is stationed onsite to helpbatteries when needed. At Haneda, WHILL typically swaps coordinate with the Airports Authority, teach passengers how tobatteries out every six to seven hours.use the service and address technical issues that may arise.Knowing that every airport has unique facilities and service The wheelchairs follow predetermined paths to users gates,challenges, WHILL uses knowledge gleaned from its current but passengers can pause the ride along that path to use theprograms and trials to develop a variety of operational restroom, shop or get something to eat. Rosset reports that it isprocedures. Renaud says that this practical experience allows great seeing the service in action because it gives passengersthe company to seamlessly introduce its autonomous wheelchair greater control of their travel experience and eliminates the needprogram into any airport and customize the service to what for airport staff to push wheelchairs. The traveler didnt haveworks best in each environment. that independence of going to the washroom or going to shopsThe ideal scenario for WHILL in the United States and or visiting parts of the terminal they wanted to see, RossetCanada is to incorporate the service into existing wheelchair emphasizes. So this is working towards greater independencepush contracts. Renaud considers the approach being taken by and a more accessible environment that we strive every day toWinnipeg Airports Authority forward thinking and cooperative. provide. They really took the onus to introduce the service, and weve The ultimate vision is to offer the service from curb to gate.actually put one of our own staff members there on a full-time Autonomous wheelchairs would meet passengers at thebasis, he says. The company representative is on hand during curb, take them to their check-in counter, through the securitypeak travel periods at YWG, assisting users through the security checkpoint, to services or shops in the terminal and finally tocheckpoint and then on to their gates as needed. Renaud notes their gates for boarding. Currently, WHILL is developing thethat YWG is unique because it allows the wheelchairs to go technology to allow users at YWG to go to any post-securitythrough security checkpoints. shop or restaurant (not just those along the predeterminedWheelchair-related service models vary significantly from paths). As the technology continues to grow, were working toairport to airport, he adds. Sometimes, the airport authority runs expand it more and more and offer these services, says Rosset.the program; elsewhere, airlines are responsible; and in other cases, a third-party company is contracted to provide wheelchair Authority and Airport Involvement assistance. WHILLs model has embraced all three scenarios. Renaud describes the program as turnkey. WHILL provides theCurrently, the company is working to educate U.S. airports and autonomous wheelchairs, a tablet-based fleet managementairlines about the benefits of its offerings. In particular, it would system, instructional banners explaining the service, floor stickerslike to incorporate autonomous wheelchairs into existing mobility March | April 2023AirportImprovement.com'