A fleet of driverless taxis could hit Japan in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, judging by recent trials in the nation’s capital. Japanese tech firm ZMP, began trials of its driverless technology this week in collaboration with taxi company Hinomaru Kotsu. The trial was one of the first to include paying customers in the driverless vehicles.
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ZMP’s driverless trial took up to three customers three miles, between two Tokyo districts. A driver and assistant were also on board to deal with any circumstances the technology can’t handle. So far only one case of intervention by a driver has been reported, in which a dangerous driver on the road caused the taxi’s driver to take control temporarily. The cost for each passenger trip equates to 1,500 yen ( £10.40), with all transactions processed through a smartphone app.
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The trial will continue until the beginning of next month, with eight trips scheduled each day between the Otemachi and Roppongi districts. Don’t expect to fly over to Tokyo and hop into a driverless cab though, the waiting list for these trips has already exceeded 1,500 passengers. Seeing as there’s only going to be 96 trips between now and the end of the trial period, these taxis may become rather cramped.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has promised to fund further trials in an attempt to prepare the self-driving taxi software for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The government hopes this can help alleviate the city’s increased need for transportation options.
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Driverless vehicles are the tech industry’s holy grail – Google has been trying to design them, Uber has had a famously tragic time with its trials, and a variety of other companies have been trying their hardest to get driverless cars on the road. Recently various tag-teams of tech companies have been announced, including Lyft and Aptiv, Nissan and DeNa, and Toyota and Uber.
ZMP’s may have beaten these competitors to the post with its successful trial, but there’s a big leap between two destinations and the thousands required when the city hosts the Olympics. Clearly the firm still has a lot of work ahead of it.