Video: Hitachi's ROPITS is a tiny autonomous vehicle

Posted by Shane McGlaun

A number of tech and automotive heavyweights are working to bring autonomous vehicles to roads and highways around the world. 

Google has probably done some of the most interesting and well known work with autonomous vehicles, but it is important to remember that there are a number of auto manufacturers and researchers who are doing their to advance the technology.

For example, Hitachi recently unveiled its very own self-driving car dubbed ROPITS, or Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System. Frankly, the little Hitachi vehicle reminds me a lot of the Toyota i-Road we discussed earlier this week. 

Interestingly, Hitachi's vehicle is a very narrow car designed to hold one person. And why not? The little car was designed to address the needs of the aging population in Japan, as well as to aid physically challenged individuals.

One of the most interesting features of the vehicle? It can be remotely directed to drop off and pick up passengers using a tablet. As expected, the vehicle features an array of sensors - including front and back mounted gyros as well as GPS mapping system to determine the best route to the owner and drive to pick them up.

The vehicle - powered by an electric motor that can propel it at up to 6 mph -  is also fitted with stereoscopic cameras and a laser distance sensor allowing it to avoid pedestrians and other obstacles.

Hitachi says that the vehicle can drive on roads, but it was primarily designed to ride on sidewalks and other pedestrian pathways. The ROPITS is designed to operate autonomously, but it is outfitted with a joystick allowing control by the passenger.

Unfortunately, there is no indication at this time as to when or if the vehicle will enter commercial production.