Hitachi Designs Self-Driving Car
By: Caroline Mullin, Intern, AARP International Affairs
Publish Date: May
Product name: ROPITS (Robot for Personal Intelligent Transportation System)
Use: Self Driving Car
Availability: Will be showcased in May at the 2013 Robotics and Mechatronics Conference in Japan
Exciting new technology is emerging out of Japan that would give seniors the ability to be mobile essentially whenever they please, with greater ease than ever. Hitachi has developed a robotic self-driving car that is able to navigate autonomously through the help of lasers, GPS, and cameras. This self-driving car would give those who cannot drive or navigate as easily as they would like the freedom to do so in a safe and useful manner. Named, ROPITS (Robot for Personal Intelligent Transportation System), this self-driving car has been deemed a “mobility support robot” by Hitachi and is designed for a single passenger. The product works very simply: those wishing to use its services request the vehicle to pick them up through a portable station with reservation capabilities. The ROPITS then uses its highly-efficient GPS system to find and pick up the passenger requesting a ride. The passenger then can input the location of where they wish to be taken and the car will navigate its way there. The designers of the ROPITS prototype envision its possibilities to include navigating streets, sidewalks, and even buildings. This would give users greater access and mobility within their surroundings.
While this product has yet to hit the market, it will make its debut in Japan at the 2013 Robotics and Mechatronics Conferences being held in May. Designers are still testing and tweaking the robot so it will perform in the most efficient way, but the outlook appears promising. When this product reaches the market, it will have countless benefits for the elderly and those with mobility challenges. Currently, aging seniors or disabled persons who rely on public transportation face problems accessing their desired destinations. For example, taking a bus does not always mean that passengers are dropped off directly in front of their destination. Instead, they may need to walk a block or so to reach where they wish to do. Now, with this exciting new technology, the face of public transportation is changing. This would allow seniors and the disabled peace of mind, ensuring safe travels which would come with greater freedom to explore the world around them.