Ever feared the day that automated, artificially intelligent accessories would take over the world? Well, that day doesn't seem to be so far away.
High-tech suitcases and luggage -- also known as "smart luggage" -- are able to perform incredible functions, such as opening with a single touch, following you around the airport like a robot, or even tracking your valuables in case they get lost. But despite their seemingly useful qualities, these battery-powered suitcases pose a huge security risk to airlines and passengers alike.
The things that make these suitcases the most dangerous, it appears, are their lithium ion batteries -- the same that power your smartphone and laptop. As a general rule, airlines don't allow passengers to check lithium ion batteries into the cargo section of the plane. If bringing lithium ion batteries onboard, passengers are expected to keep them in carry-on baggage only.
Beginning January 15, 2018, however, American Airlines will be the first major airline to ban passengers from checking in their smart luggage, according to Ross Feinstein, an airline spokesperson, in a statement to the New York Times last Friday.
"We've looked at the prevalence of these bags as they most likely are going to be a hot item, no pun intended, this holiday season," he said. "We have nothing against a smart bag, we understand customers like them, but the airline also has to make sure they are safe to transport..." Just make sure the battery is removable," he continued. "If it's not removable, we won't be permitting it to fly in the cargo hold or in the cabin."
What truly endangers these bags, of course, is the presence of the lithium ion battery. Previous incidents with carrying lithium ion batteries on airlines have indicated that the batteries are huge safety hazards for airplanes. In 2010, for example, a UPS plane was carrying tens of thousands of the batteries when one battery ignited and triggered a chain reaction that took down the whole plane.
Following American Airlines' announcement, Alaska and Delta also released their own new policies on smart luggage, effective on the same date. It's expected that all the major airlines will follow suit.
In this new era of digital tech everywhere, it's important to keep taking precautions to ensure our safety -- even at the price of inconvenience.