Now that we are all in agreement that the Segway is just never really going to catch on, it’s time to look at tiny self-driving vehicles like this one to get us around when we don’t feel like using our legs. The Hitachi Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System, or (sigh) Ropits, is a one-person vehicle aimed at increasing mobility for disabled or elderly people.
The itty-bitty car is meant to roam around on sidewalks and pedestrian areas rather than competing with much-larger cars for space on the streets. A gyro sensor keeps the vehicle upright even on uneven ground, which is an important feature when rolling around on the uneven surfaces of sidewalks.
The passenger enters the Ropits via lift-up hatch. After entering a destination on the enclosed tablet computer by touching a destination on a map, the passenger is whisked off. He or she can spend the journey reading, napping or enjoying the scenery. GPS and laser sensors help the car find its way and stay on course.
The Ropits car is meant as part of a public transportation plan in which folks with mobility problems can call a Ropits from a number of special “stops” throughout a city. For passengers who aren’t comfortable with turning over all of the control to the car, a joystick allows for a manual override. In case of an emergency (like a self-driving car uprising, perhaps?) the human inside of the Ropits can take over and drive.