Ramen Delivery Robot Is a Study in Kinematics
Kinematics is a branch of physics concerned with the mechanics of motion, but that notably ignores the originating forces. It prioritizes the real world motion of moving objects, based on the velocity, inertia, and physical constraints.
In the world of robotics, kinematics often present as closed-loop feedback. For example, adding an encoder to an electric motor lets a controller accurately adjust speed without requiring detailed information about that motor's properties. To demonstrate how these concepts apply to electric vehicles, Nissan built the e4ORCE ramen delivery robot.
Nissan's e4ORCE is a small four-wheeled robot with a flat-topped body. Its sole job is to zoom from a kitchen to a hungry patron while carrying a bowl of fresh ramen. The bowl isn't secured to the robot in any way — it just rests on the platform-like body. To keep the ramen from spilling or the bowl from sliding off, Nissan had to integrate kinematic principles that minimize g-forces. The robot monitors its inertia and uses that data to adjust power to its four electric drive motors in real time, resulting in very smooth movement and mess-free ramen delivery.
This is, of course, a prototype and PR stunt — Nissan won't be manufacturing robots for ramen restaurants. But e4ORCE does a great job of demonstrating kinematic control systems. Those concepts will translate to self-driving electric cars in the near future. If such a vehicle wasn't concerned about passenger comfort and only prioritized the reduction of travel time, it would pull some serious g-forces.
But passenger comfort and safety will be very important, which means that kinematic control like this will become indispensable. Soon enough, you will be the ramen that your car is trying to keep in a bowl and you will be thankful for this technology.