"Look mom, no hands!"
“Look mom, no hands!”

We’ve seen it all. Dogs driving cars. Cars that drive themselves. Pigs flying. Okay, pigs still don’t fly.

The latest addition to the self-driving car field is from Hitachi, a Japanese technology company. The developer has created the Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System (ROPITS) in response to the needs of the aging population and the physically disabled for increased mobility.

What Does it Do?

ROPITS is a mini car that can be remotely controlled by a tablet or by the person sitting in the vehicle with a joystick. There is no need for a driver if it is being controlled by a tablet, a destination is all the input required. All you need to do is tap on a destination and ROPTIS will take you there, sensing roadblocks and pedestrians. Although it does not travel over 6mph, the car serves as an important way to get around for those who have no other options. Or for bears who cannot realistically drive cars. 😉

Making our Roadways Safer

Although the Japanese model may never make it into the United States, new technology like this has the ability to make our roadways safer than ever by minimizing driver error. In demonstrations, the car was able to avoid hitting pedestrians through the use of intricate monitors and sensors. With more easily regulated driving speeds and monitors to help avoid accidents, these systems may prevent traffic-related injuries and fatalities. We’re looking forward to new developments in this type of technology.

How do we Regulate these Cars?

This new technology causes us to evaluate how current driving laws will apply to cars without drivers. Will a person in a car that can operate itself be required to be licensed? Must they adhere to the texting and driving laws that we have in place? Will they be responsible if an accident does occur in their self-driving car? In Nevada, drivers of these cars are allowed to text while in the vehicle but aren’t allowed to be intoxicated, even while the car parks itself. Although the cars themselves seem to be legal to drive on the road, there is a gray area when it comes to the rules that govern the person operating the vehicle.

Even though we know we won’t be seeing pigs fly anytime soon, driverless cars are becoming reality and we could eventually see them on the streets of New Mexico. If we follow the rulings of Nevada and other places around the country, it appears as though we would still require drivers of these cars to be fully licensed and able to operate the vehicle if necessary. But time will tell!