The Japanese Robot Car

Japan is a leading nation in scientific research, particularly technology, machinery and biomedical research. Nearly 700,000 researchers share a $130 billion research and development budget, the third largest in the world.  Japanese are widely known for their politeness, industrious nature and conscientiousness. But did you know that Japan leads the world in robotics production and use, possessing more than half (402,200 of 742,500) of the world’s industrial robots? A robotic nation if you like! They never cease to amaze the world!

Inventors in Japan have now gone a notch higher to create a new Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System (Ropits, for short) in the city of Tsukuba in the Ibaraki Prefecture.

Developed for elderly and disabled drivers, 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.

robotcar

The car achieves a top speed of 4 miles per hour and was initially developed by the Japanese tech conglomerate Hitachi for personal transport over short distances. The car will soon be applied to automatically deliver goods, meaning your Pizza could soon arrive via an unmanned next-generation Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System (Ropits).

Passengers need to 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.

It’s evident that robots will soon completely change our way of life. Interestingly, Isaac Asimov created the Three Laws of Robotics:

1: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2: A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law!

Let’s hope our up and coming robot friends will keep those rules in mind.

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