Lest you thought the smart luggage revolution would pass as a 2016 oddity, think again. Robotic luggage is here to stay, now with a big name entering the fray — Piaggio, the Italian company that makes the Vespa scooter. They’ve created a cargo robot called Gita, but unlike the robotic and/or mobile luggage we saw last year, this one’s not necessarily meant for the airport.
The move into tech is a recent one for Piaggio, which recently created a new company called Piaggio Fast Forward to play around with robotics and electronic drive systems. The first product from Fast Forward is Gita, and it can do some serious hauling, carrying up to 40 pounds at up to 22 miles per hour. Like the smart luggage we saw last year, it’ll be able to lock onto and follow its owner, but it can also operate autonomously using GPS.
It’s a pretty neat idea for anyone from the disabled to the person who always buys a bit more than they intended to during shopping trips. Theft could be an issue, but we imagine that if Gita can follow a map, it can also be tracked by the user should someone take it.
The more pressing question is where these will be available, and whether or not they’ll be legal. While it is just a storage device, Gita isn’t any different from an autonomous car in theory. It’s really a radically redesigned electric Vespa, and when considered that way, all the usual autonomous and electric car concerns come into play — the quality of obstacle detection, range anxiety, and even legality. During the last days of the hoverboard in late 2015, the two-wheeled scooters were confirmed as illegal in New York, since they were unregistered motor vehicles. Regulations differ by city, state, and country, but then again, that makes it all the harder to have a successful launch with something like Gita. Still, it’s not impossible, and it is a really cool idea for the disabled or anyone in the city trying to avoid buying a car.
Then again, we might be looking at it all wrong. While Piaggio does intend to sell Gita to consumers eventually, they’re starting by selling to businesses — one suggested use for the bot is to help ferry items around stockrooms and warehouses. Even when it does become a consumer-facing device, it’s not necessarily something you’ll need to own — one of a series of demo videos Piaggio had made shows Gita as a delivery bot, which could be purchased in numbers by businesses.
That way, the business would be able to implement their own security measures, to ensure that the customer doesn’t face any risk should something get lost or stolen. From what we’ve seen so far, the future of autonomous vehicles includes much less ownership than we’re used to, and Gita could fit right into that vision.