“Robot taxis” to be used in 2020 Tokyo Olympics

“Robot taxis” to be used in 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Looks like athletes will not be the only centers of attraction come the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

This is because Japan is planning to develop unmanned taxis which will transport passengers attending the Games, according to an earlier story by Quartz.

These self-driving “robot” cabs will soon be tested in one Japanese town, and developers are hopeful that by the time the Olympics arrive, the said technology will already be used in a wider scale.

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The autonomous driverless taxi, being developed by Tokyo-based company Robot Taxi, will start conducting field tests by the end of March 2016 in Fujisawa, a coastal town outside Tokyo. Here, residents will be driven from their homes along main roads to the supermarket on 3-kilometer rides.

While the cabs will make use of a GPS, rada,r and stereovision cameras, attendants will still be in the driver’s seat during the journeys  should human intervention is needed.

The company hopes the trail runs will enable it to launch thousands of new taxi units by 2020, coinciding with the Summer Games, according to chief executive Hiroshi Nakajima.

He also hopes this technology will give commuters a cheaper alternative to a human-driven taxi.

A joint venture by DeNA (one of Japan’s mobile internet pioneers) and ZMP (a robotics firm), the project won’t be building cars from scratch. Instead, Robot Taxi will be adding driverless capabialities to existing cars along with designing, creating, and marketing the service.

Japan is the best place to develop and deploy driverless cars, it being one of the fastest-ageing countries in the world.

A number of accidents involving older drivers have risen in recent years. Japanese drivers aged 75 and older were at 4.25 million in 2013, and figures are expected to exceed by 5 million in the next three years.

Should the Fujisawa trial runs prove successful, the robot taxis could be used to transport spectators to and from Olympic venues and also be deployed in rural communities with little or no public transport.