01. 24. 2023
11 min read

A word from PFF’s Chief Visionary Officer

At Piaggio Fast Forward, we build tech products that move the way people move. We believe design comes first, we turn problems into opportunities, and we build the future. Here, our vision is: To bring intuitive, efficient, and sustainable robotics solutions into the entire human-built environment. To support the local mobility needs of businesses, communities, and individuals. To add value and utility by augmenting workforces and enhancing personal mobility.

We asked our Chief Visionary Officer, Jeffrey Schnapp, a few questions about PFF’s mission and vision, the work we do here, and our Boston roots. Here’s what he had to say: 

What about the mission and vision of PFF is most meaningful to you? All three of the goals that make up our company vision statement are meaningful to me, but it's the common thread that they share that means the most to me: namely, that new technologies truly matter when they succeed in becoming a part of people's everyday lives. One can devise interesting new technologies and products that remain just that: interesting (but too expensive, dangerous, complex, unreliable to have the potential for achieving widespread adoption). At PFF, we maintain a razor-sharp focus on making new mobility products an everyday reality: today, not two decades from now. And we make sure these products are highly intuitive to operate.

What excites you most about the work we do at PFF? The apparently straightforward proposition of "building technology products that move the way people move." Human beings spend their whole lives moving around the world on two feet and developing complex behaviors that allow them to successfully navigate the world while performing a million visible and invisible adjustments that seem natural or instinctual to them. To study and analyze these behaviors in order to translate them into machine behaviors is an exciting endeavor. We are in the business of teaching "pedestrian etiquette" to robots... not to replace human mobility, but to augment and expand it. 

Why was it important for PFF to build our headquarters in Boston? How do we stay connected to the community? Thanks to its extraordinary array of universities, research labs, and tech companies, not to mention its long history of innovation, the Boston area is one of the world's great innovation centers. As a Harvard faculty member, I am reminded everyday of what a privilege it is to interact with this rich universe of knowledge creation and learning. You sit down at a café and the guy next to you working on quadratic equations or writing a novel may well be a Nobel Prize winner. You never know. My connections to the community run deep via not just the university world, but also projects that my lab at Harvard has spun up in partnership with public institutions like the Boston Public Library, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Cambridge Science Festival. 

What kind of future do you see for walkable cities/human-robot mobility? Walkability is not just the future of cities and towns, but also their present. The 20th century was the century of the automobile but, for decades now, we have been moving from automobile-centered to pedestrian-centered visions of urban planning. For a very good reason: not only does walking promote public health, not only is it the purest expression of human freedom, not only is it the most sustainable way of moving around the world... it's also the most pleasurable way to move around (as polls routinely demonstrate). When you combine walking as a foundational activity with the expanding universe of micro-mobility options that has emerged, alongside bicycles, over the past decade, the city of the future is right around the corner.

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