Honda has designed a tiny robot to perch on kids’ shoulders and help them avoid road accidents, with the Ropot tapping ADAS tech and ideas from the automaker’s cars. Described as a “traffic safety advice robot” the cute little digital guardian is packed with sensors but relies on simple communication to make children more aware of potential hazards.
While truly autonomous cars are still some way out from being commercialized, the past few years have seen a huge uptick in sensors and so-called Advanced Driver Assistance Systems being included on vehicles. Once the preserve of only the most expensive models, features like parking sensors, reversing warnings for obstacles, and alerts for possible collisions are now commonplace.
Indeed Honda’s suite of just that sort of tech, branded Honda Sensing, is now available or more often than not standard on its passenger cars and SUVs. With it, they can automatically brake if you’re about to reverse into cross traffic, help keep you within the road markings, and correct the car’s course if you drift out of the lane unexpectedly. Now, Honda Ropot could do a little of that for kids on foot.
The R&D project at Honda Japan, spotted by The Drive, tackles a well-known problem in the country. At 7 years old, Japanese children typically enter elementary school and walk there on their own. There’s a marked uptick in traffic accidents involving kids of that age as a result.
It’s not just about younger pedestrians being careless, either. Research shows that children’s field of vision is actually significantly narrower than that of adults, limiting the degree to which they can actually see comprehensively around them.
Ropot may look like a toy, but it packs some serious tech. A GPS sensor allows a parent or guardian to preconfigure the route to be taken, with the robot – mounted to the shoulder strap of the child’s backpack – vibrating at crossing points to remind them to look both ways first. A vehicle detection sensor can spot approaching traffic from behind the child, too, triggering a vibration and a prompt to check they’re safe.
The results of each day’s walk are logged, and can be reviewed using the Ropot smartphone app. That includes any times when a kid might not have stopped to check before crossing.
Honda’s team has been testing the Ropot prototype out with children in Japan, and say the response has been positive among both those wearing it and their parents and guardians. Whether it’ll be commercialized, mind, remains to be seen.