Hitachi has designed a tiny self-driving vehicle that looks like a one-person car, but is actually more like a robotic wheelchair to help people who have trouble walking, reports Jason Falconer for Gizmag. The car is called ROPITS, an acronym for “Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System,” and it would be able to pick up a person at designated stations all by itself.
Entering your destination is as simple as tapping on a map displayed by an onboard tablet PC or your own mobile device. And because it only travels on sidewalks with a maximum speed of 3.7 mph (5.9 km/h), it won’t have to deal with many of the safety issues associated with self-driving road vehicles.
As Colin Lecher writes for PopSci, ROPITS is “a teeny tiny car that’s small enough to take to the sidewalks, squeezing through urban walkways instead of the road.” It uses GPS and laser sensors to stay on course, and its gyro sensor gives it the ability to stay upright, even on uneven ground.
The gyro sensor is important, Lecher notes, because the sidewalks and other pedestrian areas ROPITS is designed to travel on do not always have surfaces as uniformly level as roads. It has a joystick that a person can use to steer in emergencies, he writes.
Falconer gives more details about the technology that drives ROPITS. The navigation system combines Real Times Kinematic GPS with a stereo camera rig and multiple laser range finders, and provides accuracy within three feet. The sensors give ROPITS a 360-degree, three-dimensional view of the vehicle’s surroundings, enabling it to perceive oncoming pedestrians and react to them, he writes.
Hitachi has tested ROPITS in a 6.9-square-mile section of Tsukuba city, one of the first places in Japan to give the go-ahead to testing of robotic vehicles a few years ago. The company, which continues to develop the technology, says ROPITS could also be used as an autonomous delivery vehicle.
Someone named “Anyicon” writes the following comment below the PopSci article: “Now they just need to combine this with India air power drive train; teach this little car besides driving to refuel itself when not in use with compressed air and it would be an industrial site automotive awesome transportation!” He gives the following link: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compressed_air_car.
Here is a Hitachi video that shows the ROPITS in action: