Japan is aiming to roll out a fleet of autonomous driving taxis for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. The idea is to have these self-driving taxis driving tourists around Tokyo.
What’s wrong with a regular bus or train or taxi then? Well, Japan’s wide network of trains and buses is one of the most confusing in the developed world. Taxi and bus drivers don’t speak English although the polite locals will usually try their best to assist.
The idea is to have a tourist booking a taxi using an app on the phone, hop on a driverless taxi, and off he goes visiting the many attractions in Tokyo. It’s an over the top showcase of Japan’s technological prowess.
Towards achieving that goal, the Japanese government, in collaboration with Robot Taxi, a subsidiary of gaming company DeNa, will be conducting field trials involving an autonomous driving Toyota Estima Hybrid in Kanagawa Prefecture in Fujisawa. Some 50 residents in Kanawaga have been selected to participate in the field trials.
The main hurdle with self-driving cars isn’t the technology, which is largely ready for deployment safe for some minor tweaks, but regulations.
Under the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, which most traffic regulations around the world is based upon, it is illegal to operate a car without a driver.
Thus for the purpose of this trial, the Japanese government has deregulated a 3 km stretch of roads in Kanawaga, and just to be sure, there are two Robot Taxi staffs sitting in front of the car to supervise the car’s operations, and also to provide the necessary explanations to passengers.
Robot Taxi adds that the service has potential to serve residents in rural areas, especially elderly folks, where public transport is not so widely available.