A Japanese robot car that drives itself on sidewalks and footpaths

March 28, 2013

Ropits … the self-driving robot car (credit: Hitachi)

Hitachi has launched the self-driving Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System (Ropits) car, developed for elderly and disabled drivers, The Guardian reports.

The vehicle is designed to roam pavements and footpaths, rather than roads, and is equipped with a plethora of sensors and guidance systems to help it navigate around bumps, potholes, and pedestrians.

A touch-screen map is linked to a GPS device to provide the overall direction, supplemented by 3D laser distance sensors and stereo cameras fixed to the front of the car to detect obstructions in its path.

Actuators fitted to the wheels can dynamically adjust their height as they encounter shifts in depth, while a gyro sensor ensures that the vehicle stays upright when negotiating uneven ground. Passengers can override the system and seize control with a joystick.

Hitachi also sees its “specified arbitrary point autonomous pick-up and drop-off” technology soon being applied to automatic goods deliveries, meaning your groceries could one day arrive via an unmanned, next-generation Ropits.

The “smart city” of Masdar, in Abu Dhabi, is equipped with unmanned solar-powered vehicles that are preprogrammed to shuttle passengers between specified stations.

Engineers at Stanford University’s Center for Automotive Research have produced a car with eyes – which meet your gaze and prompt a recorded voice to tell you that it is safe to cross.