WHILL: How This Tokyo-Based Company Is The Future Of Power Wheelchairs

By Noah Long ● September 21, 2018

WHILL, a startup that builds intelligent personal electric vehicles, recently raised $45 million in Series C funding. This round of funding will be used for expanding internationally. Plus WHILL will use the funding for developing new products for large venues like airports.

Photo: WHILL

SBI Investment, Daiwa Securities Group, and WHIZ Partners led this round of funding. INCJ, Eight Road Ventures, MSIVC, Nippon Venture Capital, DG Incubation, and Mizuho Capital also participated in this round. WHILL has raised $80 million in total funding so far.

WHILL was founded in Tokyo in 2012 and the company is planning to expand to ten countries in the European Union soon. And WHILL plans to work with a number of partners to develop autonomous capabilities said senior marketing manager Jeff Yoshioka in an interview with TechCrunch.

Yoshioka estimates that 20 million people request wheelchairs in US airports every year. This is one of the reasons why the company is focused on developing an autonomous personal mobility device.

WHILL is also going to build its own sensors and cameras for its “mobility as a service” program. This program will allow users to control vehicles and call customer service via its mobile app.

To get a wheelchair at an airport, people have to wait for an employee to bring one and then take them to their gates. WHILL is looking to make it possible for people to have a mobility device summoned over to them and once they are done, it can be returned to a docking station on its own. A test of this program is already happening at the Tokyo International Airport through a partnership with Panasonic.

WHILL is likely going to pursue distribution partnerships with U.S. airlines in order to supply and maintain wheelchair systems at the airports in the US. And the company is also ultimately planning to also launch similar programs at shopping malls and sports arenas as well.