There are self-driving cars, and now there are self-driving suitcases. The Cowarobot R1 is a carry-on suitcase that follows you around wherever you go when you travel. Yes, that’s right, it’s a “smart suitcase” that can navigate obstacles on its own while maintaining a steady speed of up to 4.5 mph to keep up with you as you walk through airports, train stations, hotels or just about anywhere else you might find yourself with a suitcase.
Making all this possible are smart sensors embedded within the suitcase, including GPS sensors and proprietary “obstacle avoidance” technology that helps to plan its route. There’s also “Find Me” technology, which enables this robotic suitcase to find its way back to you if it happens to get misplaced. Oh, and you’re connected to the suitcase via a bracelet on your wrist. The result is a travel suitcase that stays with you at all times.
This “robotic suitcase” is a product that’s obviously aimed at the tech-savvy traveler who needs hands-free access while traveling. Instead of grappling with a suitcase, the traveler is able to make calls on a smartphone or take care of more important matters – like holding the hands of any children who might be traveling with you.
The idea of hassle-free travel has resonated on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, where the Cowarobot R1 has already raised nearly $211,000 from 360 backers out of a projected funding goal of $100,000. Early backers of the project will get their hands on the robotic suitcase for only $429, a steep discount from the $699 manufacturer’s suggested retail price when the R1 hits the market in October 2016.
The big question, of course, is how well the suitcase handles in crowded travel situations – the times when airport lines are overflowing and it may not be so easy to avoid a steady stream of obstacles in its path. In the promotional video included as part of the crowdfunding project, the R1 handles surprisingly well – it can detect poles and walls around it, scooting around them while still keeping up with its owner. And it has a set of retractable gears (which Cowarobot describes as similar to “airport landing gears”) that activate when needed to navigate difficult terrain.
There are a lot of nifty features that will appeal to the frequent traveler – a spacious interior that makes it easy to pack all the tech gear you need, a portable powerbank that makes it easy to charge the suitcase on the go, and one-push access that makes it possible to open the suitcase easily. And there’s the ability to quickly shift between “autonomous mode” and “manual mode” quickly – just in case you happen to encounter some particularly tricky terrain or need to carry the R1 up and down stairs.
A lot of thought has gone into making this autonomous suitcase a hit with potential customers. While the pricing ($429) may throw off some potential backers who are still skeptical about the idea of robotic, self-driving suitcases, it’s clear that we’re soon headed for a day when an autonomous, self-driving taxi drops you off at the airport, and a bunch of robotic suitcases then follow you as you make your way to the airport gate.