There are hopes that self-driving taxi services would be ready to be commercially used before the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo after an autonomous taxi successfully ferried paying passengers on the busy streets of Japan’s capital city. Many are hoping that such a taxi service would be a hit among the tourists that would gather in the city during the Olympics.
According to the claims that were made by the developer of the autonomous driving technology – ZMP, and the taxi company Hinomaru Kotsu, the tests hat6 that had been carried out on Tokyo’s streets since this week were the first one in the world where a self driving taxi has carried fare paying customers.
This claim of a successful trial came amidst the announcement by Japanese car maker Toyota that it would be partnering with ride hailing company Uber for the development of self driving technology and cars by investing in the ride hailing company. The partnership between the two companies aims to combat rivals developing similar technologies in the markets of Japan, the US and Europe. $500m would be invested in Uber by Toyota where the two companies would develop a driverless car om the basis of Toyota’s Sienna minivans and the companies expect to start rela life testing of the new driverless cars by 2021.
The hitting and ultimate death of a woman in Arizona by one of the self driving test vehicles of Uber created a set back for the autonomous var project of the company in March.
And earlier this year, the Easy Ride robo-vehicle service of Nissan and the tech firm DeNa was tested out on a 4.5km set route in the port city of Yokohama in Japan.
DeNa and ZMP claimed that in March 2016, the two companies used Toyota’s Estima minivans to conduct a number of trials for the driverless technology in the town of Fujisawa, near Tokyo in which local residents were ferried form their homes to the local shops.
According to Kyodo news, the latest test by the two companies involved a minivan equipped with sensors was mad eto run four round-trips every day along a busy 5.3km stretch of road between the Otemachi and Roppongi districts.
The trials are set to end early next month has hit a chord with Tokyoites and 1500 residents of the city have already applied to be passengers during one or more of the 96 planned journeys by the companies.
The companies said to ensure safety of the passengers, the vehicle had a driver and an assistant on board to take over control of the vehicle in case of an emergency but the trials so far have incident free.
The process of ferrying passengers includes the passengers themselves opening the door of the car and making payment for their one-way fare via a smartphone app.
The test was a “precious step” taken by the companies towards a time when autonomous driving would become completely commercial, said Hinomaru Kotsu’s president, Kazutaka Tomita.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)