When the weather is nice, walking your dog can be very relaxing, but when it's raining or the temperature is freezing, taking your pup out can be a pain. A Toyota patent for a robotic platform that takes your pet out is an odd, yet novel, solution to this problem.
The platform has a leash attachment for affixing your dog. An actuator would be able to lengthen or retract the lead. The robot also has a distance sensor that prevents the vehicle from running over your pup, which is a fairly important feature.
Gallery: Toyota Dog Walker Patent
Toyota describes various operating modes for the robot. One of them would take the dog for a walk along a pre-decided route.
Things get really weird if your dog decides it's done with a walk. The robot has a large platform, and there would be paw position sensors. Toyota describes using these to let the pup control the vehicle's movement. We don't know what your pet is like, but if ours could drive a robot, not a squirrel in the neighbourhood would be safe.
In addition to giving the dog control, a human can ride on the platform and steer the vehicle. This seems useful for people with mobility issues who still want to take their pet for a walk.
Toyota also describes a discipline mode. Sensors on the leash would monitor how quickly the lead lengthens and know the amount of load the dog is putting on it. If the animal is pulling too hard or starts running towards something, the vehicle would come to a stop and not move again until the pup is no longer straining against the leash.
Often the point of taking a dog for a walk is for it to relieve itself, and Toyota addresses this in the patent. According to the patent's humorous wording, the robot would "learn a pre-excretion behaviour of the dog." This means the device would know when your pup is about to poop or pee and stop to let the animal do its business.
The robot would also handle the clean-up duties. If the dog pees, then a water sprayer would clean the urine off the sidewalk. It would also collect the poop. To prove to the owner that the pup went to the bathroom, the vehicle would take pictures for the pet parent to see.
As with all patents, there's no guarantee that Toyota plans to do anything with this filing. For use in the real world, we'd want to see some tweaks. For example, there are lots of places without sidewalks where you have to walk your dog on the road. For this situation, the robot needs sensors to detect traffic and somehow prevent the pet from running into the path of a car.