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Robotic pods take on car design

A new breed of wearable robotic vehicles that envelop drivers are being developed by Toyota.

The company's vision for the single passenger in the 21st Century involves the driver cruising by in a four-wheeled leaf-like device or strolling along encased in an egg-shaped cocoon that walks upright on two feet.

Both these prototypes will be demonstrated, along with other concept vehicles and robots, at the Toyota stand at the Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan, in March.

The open leaf-like "i-unit" vehicle is the latest version of the concept which the company introduced last year.

Built using environmentally friendly plant-based materials, the single passenger unit is equipped with technologies that allow for safe autopilot driving in specially equipped lanes.

The model allows the user to make tight on-the-spot turns, move upright amongst other people at low speeds and can be easily switched into a reclining position at higher speeds.

Also on display at the show will be the egg-shaped "i-foot". This is a two-legged mountable robot like device that can be controlled with a joystick.

Standing at a height of well over seven feet (2.1 metres), the unit can walk along at a speed of about 1.35km/h (0.83mph) and navigate staircases into the bargain.


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