When in Europe, the first thing to come to mind when the “motor scooter” is mentioned would be the Vespa created by Italian manufacturer PIaggio. Even Americans are familiar with the vehicles, which became big in the US after World War II, most especially when legendary movie stars Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn rode one in the 1953 film “Roman Holiday”. It’s easy to appreciate the mechanical ingenuity of the Vespa, with its engine transmission design acting directly on the rear wheel eliminating the drive chain action of other motorcycles. This spirit of innovation has remained with Piaggio and its Vespa scooters even in this age of cutting edge tech.

When startup companies appear to preview such new advances as a surprisingly Vespa-looking zero-emissions scooter, the original makers are boasting their own entry into the fast-paced smart vehicle market: Gita.

The Vespa that follows you around

From their new Boston offices of Piaggio Fast Forward, the Italian company is cooking up some radically awesome and automated conveyances for the future. Gita, as mentioned above, is a wheel-shaped transportation robot that can carry small cargoes like groceries, and automatically track and follow a designated target, like a person walking on foot, or on another small transport like skates, skateboard, bicycle or scooter. The Vespa department envisions Gita as a “mundane-chores” robot, with its sole purpose of carrying stuff for their owners as it speeds along on the ground behind them.

Shaped like a wheel two feet tall that drives on a pair of “tracks-wheels” on its edges, the robot has an internal storage space that can carry up to 40 pounds of weight, and cruise along on a top speed of 22 miles per hour.

The advent of ‘ground delivery robots’

It seems rather fitting that Piaggio would pitch its Fast Forward think tank in Boston, a comfy distance away from MIT and also a hotbed of US robotics R&D.

From here they’ll be able to recruit personnel from the institute and from other robotics companies in the area to push their own development ahead, with the Vespa Gita as a starting point. With other transportation manufacturers having started their own inroads into designing robots, self-drive vehicles and drone craft with billion-dollar budgets, Piaggio is well aware that they can’t rely solely on their Vespa scooters to stay relevant in the consumer market.

As for Gita, Piaggio Fast Forward has not yet specified a set timeline for when consumers can finally buy their own carry-bot follower; they can’t even decide on a possible price range yet. But they have engaged several local businesses where they can conduct pilot testing with Gita. After all, other startups like Starship Technologies and Savioke have their own ground delivery robots to field-test, so they can’t fall behind.