Over at the University of Delaware, researchers are refuting the generally accepted rule of thumb that you have to be at least 3 years old to drive. The UD1 is a very slow moving robot, controlled by a joystick, that relies on smart robotics like infrared and sonar to keep the occupant from scooting into danger. In this test, the occupant is 6-month-old Aniya Harris.
Aniya, who doesn't know how to talk, walk or use a toilet, seems to have no trouble scooting all over the place in the wheely car, which is monitored for location, speed and distance traveled as well as the frequency and duration of the child's joystick use.
The breakthrough is that Aniya is the youngest test driver of a motorised vehicle by at least a year and a half. Over in the UK, there's a kiddy cart called the Wizzybug, developed at the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering, that can be used by 2- to 5-year-olds. It's programmable and has a parental control (kill switch?) but it doesn't have all of the enhanced robotics.
Who is this for, you finally ask? The idea is to provide mobility for disabled children, and help teach the movement and spatial thinking to kids who cannot otherwise propel themselves. Aniya, in case you're wondering, isn't disabled. In fact, in two year's time, she'll be hitting the NASCAR circuit. [AP]