Delta funds research on autonomous vehicles

Source: Delta Air Lines

Source: Delta Air Lines

Could autonomous vehicles someday help travelers make tight connections or deliver delayed baggage?

Delta Air Lines thinks there's potential for autonomous cars, trucks or buses at airports, and is funding research on the topic.

The Atlanta-based airline is partnering with Georgia Tech and Curiosity Lab, which has a 1.5-mile autonomous vehicle test track and "smart city living laboratory" in Peachtree Corners.

Delta is contributing seed funding as part of the partnership and will have access to the test track and lab.

"Autonomous vehicle technology is one of those innovations we see as having the potential to improve employee safety, the customer experience and operational performance, and this partnership will help us explore all of those possibilities," said Delta chief operating officer Gil West in a written statement. He added that the possibilities are "speculative" but broad.

The airline has ground workers who drive vehicles around airport grounds to transport baggage and help elite frequent fliers make tight connections.

“Delta recognizes that our people will always be our greatest competitive advantage and that no amount of technology or innovation will change that,” West said in a written statement.