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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ropit ~ the 'no driver' car technology......

It is a paradox…  what is a luxury…

As you step out in to city streets, the first things that strikes is the crowds in bus stands.. Chennai depends on Transport Corporation and people wait, struggle to get in, yet travel comfortably in buses ~ not all afford to go by alternate means ~ the autorickshaw costs a fortune.  There are so many two wheelers of various hues as people buzz past and perhaps those waiting for buses would see those riding 2 wheelers as fortunate…. Not so fortunate, as you drive in the muddle of city traffic in Chennai heat.  The roads have potholes, and there is no space for driving across freely…. At the signals, those on 2 wheelers would look to those cars, thinking that those driving lead a cosy life ~ some are budget cars and those in smaller segments, look to those in luxury sedans…. Even if you are to drive a SUV, one would sure find the stress on the congested road and more so when you have to park somewhere…….. in the end even those are not so happy….. then what do people chase, what is comfort, what is luxury and what will make people happier ?   You see places on TV and films and think them as paradise – nice roads, nice vehicles, people coasting along !!!

Science is all about innovation and catering to change….as there are more and more advanced features in the latest hi-tech cars, there is also innovation towards the ones which occupy lesser space and in which one can zoom around ! Read with interest this report in Daily Mail of Japan unveiling single-passenger robot cars that drive themselves.  Yes, cars not only small in size but the ones that can drive themselves ~ auto drive  has long been an element of science fiction visions of the future and the  ever-inventive Japanese have taken a step forward with the unveiling of a robotic car that can automatically take passengers from point to point.

Daily Mail details of Japanese tech conglomerate Hitachi revealing its new Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System (Ropits, for short) in the city of Tsukuba in the Ibaraki Prefecture. Its hassle free and sure no licence would be required.  The one man mobility robot can pick-up and drop off a passenger autonomously; but passengers can seize control of the vehicle using a joystick in an emergency. Originally developed to help those who have difficulty walking - an increasing number of people in Japan's ageing society - Ropits is designed to be small enough to move through pedestrian spaces. The robot is equipped with GPS to allow it to find its way, as well as laser distance sensors to look out for obstacles and a gyro sensor to help it stay upright while negotiating uneven ground. 

Passengers need only specify their desired destination on a touch-screen map and the machine will automatically drive them there. Similarly, anyone who needs a ride will be able to call a Ropits vehicle from any number of computer-networked 'stops' dotted around the city. The vehicle is also equipped with 'active suspension' which controls each wheel individually to enable it to tackle curbs and uneven ground while keeping passengers comfortably upright.

Away from Science and Technology, somewhere in the net, saw this Chinese vehicle parked somewhere…….. what strikes one, is that there appears no space for the driver to sit……… probably another robotic version…. Autodrive !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
31st March 2013

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