Size up BB8, paint her blue, add a 40-pround cargo compartment, and you’ve made Gita, the cutest little cargo robot you ever did see.
Built by Piaggio Fast Forward — the same company famous for making Vespa scooters — this little blue buddy is designed to make it easier to get around on foot, bikes, or other methods of personal transportation by carrying your stuff for you. The robot is actually more similar to a chatbot or a real-life droid from Star Wars, than an autonomous car or a robotic manufacturer.
“It’s designed to work with people, basically for people, instead of being designed to replace people,” Tim Smith, Piaggio Fast Forward spokesperson, tells Inverse.
“Gita is deliberately non-humanoid, but it’s meant to be sleek and friendly and approachable, like a BB-8 or an R2-D2,” says Smith. “The intent is to be non-threatening to people and appealing.”
Gita — which translates to “short journey” in Italian — is planned for release in 2018, but the pilot program starts in 2017.
The little robot is designed to have personality and interact with people using lights, sounds, and a little touchscreen. “Imagine if BB8 had a 40-pound carrying capacity, and that’s what you got,” says Smith. Just under two feet tall, GITA can carry about 40 pounds in its cargo component. Beneath the cargo bin sits its mechanical components, including its motor and batteries that can last up to eight hours.
It scoots around after you by learning about the world via a wearable camera belt you wear and its own inset cameras. This lets it create and compare two different maps of its world and navigate around with an autonomous system.
“There’s a lot of design history to make it look as sleek as it does,” says Smith, referring to Vespa, which launched post-war Italy in 1946. The Fast Forward arm was created in 2015 to focus on smart mobility. And for a company that’s made its name on scooters and light vehicles, going for the tiny autonomous systems makes sense.
You aren’t going to be taking Gita out on a drive behind your Vespa — at least not right now. The adorable robot has a max speed of 22 mph, which is about as fast as a person running or biking around town is comfortably going to go. The idea is that Gita will encourage people to travel without cars, particularly in cities, and that having to carry things is what prevents that.
Although it hasn’t been priced yet, Smith says that Piaggio Fast Foward expects that it will fall out somewhere between the cost of a high-end bicycle and a low-end car.
Gita will first be used in business-to-business transportation before it’s offered to private consumers, Smith says, and the pilot program over the next few years is expected to work out any bugs that people would face. But a world where you can have your own BB8 that carries your stuff is not that far away.