Hitachi’s ROPITS Transport Vehicle Drives Itself

Hitachi's ROPITS Automated Vehicle

Hitachi unveiled an automated transport vehicle on Tuesday that can be controlled via a smartphone or tablet.

The ROPITS, short for Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System — say that three times fast, is a single-seat vehicle that uses cameras and laser distance sensors to gauge obstacles and avoid pedestrians.

The Hitachi transport vehicle has a front-opening hatch that allows passengers easy access to and from the robotic mobility vehicle. Once inside ROPITS, passengers can specify their destinations on a touch-screen interface not too dissimilar from a conventional tablet device. The vehicle can also be controlled remotely with a smartphone or tablet as stated previously.

After choosing a destination the ROPITS takes over and leaves the passenger to him or herself to enjoy the ride. Should the need arise, passengers can manually control the vehicle with a joystick in the cockpit.

Hitachi demonstrated the vehicle in Tsukuba, a Japanese city about 35 miles northeast of Tokyo, and said it’s planning to market the vehicle for elderly and others that have difficulty getting around by walking.

No word yet when this device could be showing up in the states, but some believe it may very well be the next Segway.

The company said that additional trials are scheduled to be held in Tsukuba in order to improve the vehicles automated functions. Hitachi will also discuss the ROPITS at the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers Conference on Robotics and Mechatronics this May.

The ROPITS is primarily intended to operate on sidewalks, as it only has a maximum speed of 3.7 mph — something that makes it less of a risk to unaware pedestrians, although its 450 pound weight could potentially do a decent amount of damage.

So, will the Hitachi ROPITS make its way into the US? It’s still too early to tell, but don’t be surprised if you begin to see these overachieving golf carts in a neighborhood near you.