What's the Latest Development?

Early this month Hitachi unveiled its new Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System (ROPITS), a small self-driving "car" that's built for sidewalks and paths instead of roads. ROPITS contains various cameras and guidance systems that allow it to navigate around pedestrians and other obstacles. It also has wheels that automatically adjust to accommodate uneven terrain or changes in level, such as curbs. A touch-screen map and built-in GPS device gets the vehicle from point A to point B. Although it is automated, a passenger can drive it with a joystick if desired. 

What's the Big Idea?

ROPITS is the latest in "vehicle autonomy" technology, which is being explored by various manufacturers such as Google and its fleet of smart cars, as well as localities such as the Abu Dhabi city of Masdar and its unmanned shuttles. Hitachi's version was originally developed for elderly and disabled persons, who could use it for travel over short distances. However, the company believes that in the future, the technology could replace delivery men, bringing goods to homes autonomously.

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