Self-driving car technology has come a long way in a very short space of time: since Google kicked off their autonomous automobile programmes, the idea of letting robots take the wheel has become more and more plausible. And now a fleet of self-driving taxis is scheduled to take to the roads in Japan.
A partnership between the Japanese federal government and Robot Taxi will see 50 people take part in a trial scheme in the Kanagawa prefecture, just south of Tokyo. The trips will cover about 3 kilometres and involve some of the main roads in the city – which is perhaps why human drivers will still be on hand in case they need to take over in an emergency.
It’s all part of Robot Taxi’s aim of getting its driverless transportation service commercialised by the turn of the decade (2020 also happens to be the same target Google has set itself for getting its cars out of testing and on sale to anyone who wants one). “There are a lot of people who say it’s impossible, but I think this will happen faster than people expect,” said government minister Shinjiro Koizumi.
The Tokyo Olympic games.Spectators and even athletes could potentially be ferried around in cars without drivers, summoned with a tap on a smartphone and using advanced sensor equipment (including GPS) to keep tabs on their current location.