Before Autonomous Cars, Honda Wants… Autonomous Kids?

Published on December 4, 2020 in Technology/Autonomous Vehicles by Guillaume Rivard

The development of autonomous cars is not as quick and encouraging as some people were hoping. There are still way too many questions to answer and issues to address.

Honda is among the various automakers that are working to put AVs on the road in the future, but in the meantime the company is unveiling a new innovation for a whole other type of customers: children.

The robotics division of Honda has indeed created a miniature device that rides on a backpack or shoulder strap and acts as a guardian angel on the go, including walks to school or to the park.

Nicknamed “Ropot,” it guides children and keeps them safe along the way, using its GPS capabilities to remind kids to stop and look at intersections. It also senses approaching traffic and vibrates to alert to novice pedestrians, kind of like a blind spot monitoring system.

The technology still has limitations, mind you. For example, parents must take that first trip to school together with their kids so the Ropot can learn the route.

Come to think of it, how useful can the Ropot be? Maybe in countries like Japan with lots of pedestrians—especially young ones—who are significantly more likely to be struck by automobiles. The aforementioned GPS capability also allows parents to track the whereabouts of their kids.

Of course, it’s useless if the child removes the device and stuffs it in their backpack as soon as mom and dad are out of sight.

And here’s another thought: shouldn’t we focus on transmitting safe habits to our kids rather than conditioning them at a young age to trust technology? After all, a number of studies have shown that driving distractions increase as people rely too much on the various driver assist features that are included in their cars.

Honda’s mission to actively protect children is noble, but is the Ropot really a good way to do it? What do you think?

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