Who said that autonomous cars need to look like… cars? XPeng, a Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer, has come up with something much more fun: a robotic unicorn that can take you wherever you want (and still keep you company). Take a look:
XPeng’s Unicorn Robot just needs a really cool name (wow, Pegasus was on the tip of my tongue), but promises a wonderful future. The current prototype, which appears at the end of the video above, shows some artificial intelligence technologies that the company has taken from its autonomous vehicles.
The company promises that the unicorn will have the ability to recognize and track different objects, allowing it to roam through various terrains and environments — always maintaining a cheerful posture (which, let’s face it, is the most important resource of all).
Xpeng also says that artificial intelligence will allow the unicorn robot to emotionally interact with anyone who climbs onto it — a feature that even Tesla’s best cars don’t have.
Unfortunately, there is no official word from XPeng talking about intentions to put the robot into production process. To further dampen my hopes, the prototype can only accommodate children on the unicorn’s back.
Fortunately, the project can still scale. That’s what I’m hoping for — after all, a future I can’t get into the robot unicorn-ridden office is a future I don’t want to live in.
Boston Dynamics gave the idea a little push
Years ago Boston Dynamics demonstrated the equivalent of a robotic cargo mule called BigDog, which was created to move shipments over terrain that was inaccessible to wheeled vehicles. But the program was eventually scrapped because the robot was too noisy for military maneuvers, which normally need to be discreet.
The technology behind BigDog, however, survived with Boston Dynamics’ Spot, a robot dog that was more agile and quieter. Unfortunately, Spot was too small for you to ride on. It costs only $745,000.
But this is not to say that people have given up on the idea of creating an alternative means of transport. Adam Savage (of Mythbusters), for example, created a rickshaw that Spot could pull from — but he just wasn’t made for it. That’s where XPeng saw the opportunity to fill that vacuum.