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Self-driving cart for theme parks looks like it drove straight out of a cartoon

Sony and Yamaha Motors have partnered up to develop a boxy new self-driving cart that can transport you around a theme park, complete with huge 4K screens on the inside and outside. 

The cartoonish-looking SC-1 Sociable Cart is designed to be used places like golf courses and theme parks. The self-driving cart has a maximum speed of 11.8mph, so that movement isn’t going to happen particularly quickly — but it should be an entertaining ride, at least. 

Inside, you’ll find a single 49-inch 4K monitor that can display images, ads, or videos while also allowing passengers to see the world outside the vehicle in augmented reality — possibly pointing out points of interest as you drive along.

Sony developed a proof of concept of the vehicle in 2016, and completed the SC-1 New Concept Cart prototype in 2017. In 2018, that prototype was used on a special “Moonlight Cruise” ride experience at Kanucha Bay Resort where customers were able to experience audio and video entertainment powered by augmented reality projected against night scenes on a golf course in Okinawa.

Outside the vehicle are four 55-inch 4k displays that can show ads for those passing by. The promos can even be tailored via AI based on who is viewing them. For instance, a group of children might see an ad targeted for kids, while adults might see something different.

“Unlike conventional transport vehicles which are operated by humans, the SC-1 can sense the surrounding environment using images that are in-focus in all directions,” Sony wrote in a statement. “Moreover, the ultra-high sensitivity characteristics of the image sensors and the high-resolution display installed inside the vehicle allow the passengers to see their surroundings at night even without any headlights. Also, in addition to normal operation by the passengers, the SC-1 can also be operated remotely by someone viewing the images via the cloud.”

The vehicle has no windows, instead, displays are situated where windows would traditionally be in the vehicle.

The SC-1 also has ultrasonic sensors and a LIDAR system that allows it to accumulate travel data and optimize its driving over time.

Sony and Yamaha Motor plan to launch services using the new SC-1 in Japan this year, though you won’t be able to buy one — it’s not available to the general public — but it could show up at a theme park near you pretty soon.

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