Could self-driving pods help people with reduced mobility move around big spaces like airports and malls?
That’s the vision of a Canadian robotics technology company that recently tested the mobility devices at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
The company, Vancouver-based A&K Robotics, held live demonstrations of its “micro mobility” technology on Concourse C over the last month.
A&K Robotics chief operating officer Jessica Yip said the technology is still in the testing and evaluation phase. The company worked with Hartsfield-Jackson on the test and said it also collaborated with Southwest Airlines, which operates flights from Concourse C.
A&K envisions allowing passengers who need assistance walking longer distances to hail the self-driving pods via a mobile app.
The company said its autonomous electric pods are designed to transport people in crowded places like airports and malls. The pods are programmed to operate at a moderate walking pace, according to A&K, and have sensors to adjust speed when approaching objects or people to stop, slow down or drive around them.
The technology could eventually be used to help some of the passengers who normally use wheelchair assistance at airports. A&K said the most common requests for mobility assistance come from people who can walk short distances but need help for longer distances, such as the elderly or those who have had knee surgery.
Hartsfield-Jackson Chief Commercial Officer Jai Ferrell in a written statement called the demonstrations “very impressive” and said the airport is considering expanding the tests and adding the pods to its operations to make it “easier for our passengers to navigate the airport.”