Purchasing new hardware? Read our latest product comparisons

Hitachi's ROPITS tablet-controlled, self-driving urban vehicle


March 19, 2013

Hitachi's ROPITS' navigation system combines GPS, stereo cameras, and multiple laser range finders - and can drive to selected destinations on a tablet pc or mobile device

Hitachi's ROPITS' navigation system combines GPS, stereo cameras, and multiple laser range finders - and can drive to selected destinations on a tablet pc or mobile device

Image Gallery (2 images)

Toyota, Honda, and General Motors have been toying with the concept of eco-friendly single-seater urban vehicles over the past few years, and Hitachi has taken notice. Although it may look like a miniature car, Hitachi's ROPITS is more like a robotic wheelchair designed to assist people with difficulty walking (i.e. Japan's growing elderly population). The key difference is that – unlike the concept vehicles demonstrated by the auto makers – ROPITS drives itself.

The company says ROPTIS, which stands for Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System, would pick up a single passenger at designated stations all on its own. Entering your destination is as simple as tapping on a map displayed by an onboard tablet PC or your own mobile device. And because it only travels on sidewalks with a maximum speed of 3.7 mph (5.9 km/h), it won't have to deal with many of the safety issues associated with self-driving road vehicles.

The navigation system combines Real Time Kinematic GPS (RTK-GPS) with a stereo camera rig and multiple laser range finders to provide accuracy to within one meter (3 feet). The sensors provide a 360-degree three-dimensional image of the vehicle's surroundings, giving it the capability to detect and react to oncoming pedestrians or unevenness in the ground surface.

Hitachi has already tested ROPITS in an 18 square-kilometer (6.9 sq mile) area of Tsukuba city, one of the first in Japan to give the green light to robotic vehicles testing just a few years ago.

The company says that besides transporting people, ROPITS could also be used as an autonomous delivery vehicle for a variety of services, and plans to continue developing the technology.

While it may be a while before such a system is actually rolled out, you can see the vehicle perform a press demonstration in a video released by the Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun.

Source: Hitachi (Japanese) via Robonable (Japanese)

About the Author
Jason Falconer Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers. All articles by Jason Falconer

the front wheels are seem awfully small. not good for crossing holes in the pavement. IMHO autonomous cars have the future, I am still waiting for a two person flying device also preferably autonomous.like in the old West a horse would return home after it lost its rider.


Driverless cars will come in 4 steps: * step 0: today’s self parking feature and Google cars * step 1: partially autonomous driverless cars * step 2: everyone can operate a driverless car * step 3: shared driverless cars

“How long end drivers are allowed (technically and legally) not to pay attention to road” will be the most interesting thing to watch for the next 5 to 10 years and especially: * environmental conditions allowing it. * the price of the technical features needed. * reliability.


Eric Mariacher

An autonomous inclosed mobility scooter. Nice.

re; Eric Mariacher

I don't want to share a car with someone who smokes, wears perfume (I'm allergic), or would pilfer my emergence supplies. (A fifty dollar bill under the ashtray/trash receptacle liner has gotten me out of a world of hurt. I have never needed to use the arctic sleeping bag canned food but I real glad it is there.)


OK - tell me why San Diego's Balboa Park could not be using something like this and other vehicles designed to demonstrate autonomous vehicle, electric vehicle, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicle technologies by 2015!

Kevin Swanson

A solution for drunk drivers perhaps?

Haykey Kaariainen

Very tall and slim. Could easily get pushed over by prankster

James Chin
Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles