BGU Invents Portable Robot Chauffeur


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Imagine you’re out with friends at your favorite local bar. Drinks have been flowing all evening. The night winds down and it’s time to leave. You could hail a taxi or call an Uber, but what if you could take a portable robot out of your trunk, place it in the driver’s seat and have it shuttle you home?

While that may seem like something a couple of guys might try to invent while drunk at a bar, the reality may be coming sooner than you think.

Respected roboticist Prof. Hugo Guterman of BGU’s Laboratory for Autonomous Robotics and his team, including Ph.D. student Oded Yechiel, have developed an Intelligent Vehicle Operator – IVO for short, which acts as a portable robot driver. Two cameras serve as eyes, while its metal legs are attached to the gas and brake pedals. Robotic clamps clasp the steering wheel.

“We really tried not to have any human similarity, because people are afraid of robots driving their cars, or robots in general,” says Yechiel. “It’s cool in the movies, but when it comes down to practice, psychologically, you wouldn’t want a humanoid robot driving your car.”

The IVO pops into any car and can be installed in about five minutes. It even has a built-in GPS so it will never get lost. When you’re not using the robot, it can fold up to the size of a suitcase.

Prof. Guterman and his team are now back in the lab developing an updated version.

Eventually, they hope to make it available to the mass market.

“You will be able to transform any vehicle into an autonomous vehicle quite fast,” says Yechiel. “And it won’t be expensive because it’s a very generic solution.”

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