Air France Testing World’s First Self-Driving Luggage Tractor

The holidays are here which means a lot more people are at the airport. That also means more luggage which ultimately needs to make its way to the plane. This comes in the form of a baggage tractor which is usually driven by humans. With all the planes taking off, that could be a lot of manpower. One company is looking into using AI to help bring your luggage to the plane.

At the Toulouse-Blagnac airport, Air France has been testing an autonomous baggage tractor to help speed up moving luggage between the sorting area and the aircraft. It’s called the Autonom Tract AT135 and built by Charlatte Autonom. The French company is one of the world leaders in electric luggage tractors.

The AT135 looks like a standard luggage tractor but it’s filled with tech that helps it autonomously navigate the airport. Multiple layers of lidar sensors, an onboard computer,  front and rear cameras along with inertial and GPS navigation allow the tractor to be as safe and efficient as possible. The AI tractor is able to recognize its environment, position itself with great precision, detect obstacles at 360° and make decisions.

Self-Driving Luggage Tractor - Yell Robot
credit: Air France

Self-Driving Baggage Tractor Can Pull 25 Tonnes

The AT135 is completely electric and runs off of a 32kWh battery. It can go up to 15 mph and pull about 25 tonnes. Employees tell it where to go by using a touch screen. When it reaches the airliner, it automatically stops for unloading and then returns to the sorting area for another load while being updated by the airport’s traffic signals.

“With the roll-out of smart, autonomous vehicles, air transport players aim to improve baggage flow performance and ramp safety at airport hubs. By automating traffic flows, operators can focus on decision-making and management actions, which saves time and efficiency when handling aircraft,” said Air France in a press release.

AT135 is the First Step to Widespread Rollout

The AT135 was jointly developed by a team including Air France; Charlatte Autonom; Navya, which supplied the autonomous driving system; Groupe 3S with its ground-handling expertise; Toulouse-Blagnac airport; and ground support equipment supplier TCR, which is responsible for maintenance and operations.

“By facilitating the use of an autonomous baggage tractor and perfectly integrating it into its operational processes, Air France’s ambition is to further optimize its operational performance and improve its customers’ travel experience. This test is the first step to a more widespread roll-out of autonomous vehicles at our airports,” said Vincent Euzeby, head of IT_&_Tech Innovation at Air France.

The testing of the autonomous luggage tractor has been going on since Nov 15. No word on if or when the AT135 will make its way to other airports.

Check out our articles on retrofitted self-driving pickup trucks in Australia and facial recognition at Japan’s airports.