Honda is apparently working toward making Japan a place even more friendly to pedestrians than it is already. It’s not unusual for Japanese children as young as 7 to walk themselves to school, and that is causing a safety issue as they face vehicle traffic for the first time. To help make the trips safer, Honda is developing Ropot, a traffic-safety advice robot that attaches to the straps of a young child’s backpack.
Despite having a much more pedestrian-heavy infrastructure than the United States, Japan’s pedestrians die at a rate of 1.1 per 100,000 residents, compared with nearly 1.9 per 100,000 in the U.S. In any case, there is always room for improvement to save lives, especially those of children. This is particularly an issue with 7-year-olds in Japan, as they are hit more frequently than pedestrians of any other age. It seems that children this age have a narrower field of vision than adults; mix that with unfamiliarity of traffic hazards, and it makes danger more difficult to notice.
So what does Ropot do? In order to learn your route, a guardian is required to walk with the child on the first day, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. This way, the guardian can program Ropot with predetermined crosswalks. When the child arrives at the crosswalk alone for the first time, Ropot will buzz to remind the kid to look left and right for traffic. The little red and white robot also has a vehicle detection sensor, buzzing when there is a car approaching from behind. That way the child can stop, turn to look at the car as it passes and then carry on.
Daisuke Kiryu of Honda R&D, who came up with the idea for Ropot, had this to say about the inspiration for the device: “It’s true that the safety performance of cars is improving day by day. However, I was shocked to find out about the Devil’s 7-year-old problem. At the peak, many small children are victims of traffic accidents. I myself had children of that age, so I strongly felt that I had to do something from a different angle than the car. This was the catalyst for the development of Ropot.”
I can’t read kanji, but maybe you can. Here’s a little video demonstration of how Ropot works.
Because Ropot is also GPS enabled, it lets a guardian keep track of the child on the way to school. It’s like LoJack for your kid!
I don’t know about you, but I would have loved a little robot pal to sit on my shoulder on my way to school. At least then I might have had a pal.