Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Segways for Valets


Project Status: Still Dreaming

I have been a valet and I understand how much running is involved with the job. It's time for Segways. I have seen cops and mailman on these but I think it's time that valet started using them.

This is very possible and only requires that Segways have a self-driving option. That's right, self-driving Segways! It's not as far fetched of a pipe dream as it sounds, after all we already have self-driving cars.

Goolge has already gone so far with self-driving cars, a self-driving Segway should be a piece of cake now. Of course the valet should be able to setup some safe zones, not allowing the Segway to wonder off into traffic or outside of the parking lot. The Segway should automatically yield to any pedestrians or other cars in the parking lot. It should also be setup so that only the valet personnel can use it, meaning anyone that happens to walk by should not be able to jump on and take it.

The way it should work is the valet carries a transmitter in his or her pocket. This could be anything from a cell phone using bluetooth to a specially designed device that serves only this purpose. The valet should get keys from the driver as normal. Then when the valet goes to park the car this Segway should follow safely behind the vehicle. As soon as the car is parked the valet steps out and right onto the waiting Segway.

This Segway will wait by the valet's stand like a puppy. When the valet needs to retrieve a vehicle all he or she needs to do is jump on the waiting Segway and drive it to the vehicle. When the valet drives the vehicle back to the stand the Segway will again follow safely behind.

Want to take it a step further? How about mounting a tablet like screen on the Segway so that it can remember where each car is parked and visually guide the valet personnel back to the parked vehicles.

Not to keen on the transmitter device thingy idea? There are other ways to accomplish this. For example; the Segway could simply recognize the valet personnel based on their faces and clothing using the equipment it will already need for self-driving. It will learn who to watch and stay safely close to these people. When it sees one of the valet personnel jump into a car it will follow the car just as it followed the person before, watching the license plate and such until it sees the valet get out again. Of course in this case it really does need the safe zones setup so that if it ever followed the wrong person it wouldn't take off down the roadway after them.

The largest obstacles are the price and who would really want to spend the time making this for such a small market. I think the solution to both is the the university arena. The fastest way to get this project off the ground would be for a college or university to build this as a class project. Why do I think this is for universities? Easy, with all the machine learning, deep neural networks and such going on right now focused at self-driving cars and robotics this is a great small scale project to take on.

Until that happens we can just use our valet apps which let us alert the valet that we are about to come out for our car.