Hitachi’s Ropits mobility robot drives itself

Hitachi today unveiled a personal mobility robot that can pick up and drop off passengers autonomously. Take that, all you old-fashioned driver-dependent personal mobility devices.

Hitachi’s new Ropits mobility robot: Driver, what driver?

(Credit: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)

The tiny single-seat Ropits (Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System) is meant to travel on sidewalks, or even be used indoors for getting in and out of elevators. It’s equipped with GPS to find its way and relies on cameras and 2D and 3D laser distance sensors to avoid obstacles (sometimes also known as pedestrians) and slow down in narrow spaces. Gyro sensors help it stay upright on uneven surfaces.

Passengers climb into Ropits through a front hatch and specify their destination via a touch-screen tablet interface. Ropits takes it from there. In case of emergencies, riders can control the vehicle with a joystick located in the cockpit.

Hitachi demonstrated Ropits in Japan and says in a translated press release that it’s aimed at the elderly and those who have difficulty walking. It’s also easy to imagine it taking off as a next-generation Segway for the urban crowd, but there’s no word yet on when you might be dodging the 450-poun… [Read more]

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