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A cargo-carrying robot to follow in your footsteps
A new “startup” called Piaggio Fast Forward (by Piaggio, the Italian company that makes Vespa scooters) developed a personal “cargo robot” called the Gita.
Gita looks like a carbon fiber take on the exercise ball with tires in a meridian position, and multiple cameras embedded within its shell. It can follow a person, or roll autonomously in an environment it has already mapped. At 26 inches tall, the Gita can carry up to 40 pounds at a time and has a maximum speed of 22 miles per hour, so it can keep up with a person on foot or riding a bike. It can run for about 8 hours of continuous use, the company said.
Piaggio Fast Forward has taken a different approach to circumventing traffic on the ground than other startups in this space, such as the delivery drone makers Flirtey and Zipline or Starship Technologies, which makes semi-autonomous personal delivery robots. The Gita has to follow a human around to learn how to navigate around a new environment. Its design allows it to go wherever a person in a wheelchair could go, including ADA-compliant ramps, elevators and grocery store aisles.
Piaggio Fast Forward Chief Operating Officer Sasha Hoffman explained the follow-mode can alleviate some problems faced by autonomous vehicles. She said, “A machine can be intelligent, but isn’t as smart as a human today. Driving down the street and deciding to swerve to avoid hitting a bicyclist or a dog in the road, for example, people make ethical decisions all the time that a self driving car can’t make. If a device is following a person then that person has the lead, and powers the most important decisions around the robot’s movement.”