From the country where hotels are operated by robots and androids serve as clerks at department stores comes the latest unmanned project: the robot cab.
Japan’s cabinet office, Kanagawa prefecture and Robot Taxi Inc. on Thursday said they will start experimenting with unmanned taxi service beginning in 2016. The service will be offered for approximately 50 people in Kanagawa prefecture, just south of Tokyo, with the auto-driving car carrying them from their homes to local grocery stores.
According to the project organizers, the cabs will drive a distance of about three kilometers (two miles), and part of the course will be on major avenues in the city. Crew members will be aboard the car during the experiment in case there is a need to avoid accidents.
Robot Taxi Inc., a joint venture between mobile Internet company DeNA Co. and vehicle technology developer ZMP Inc., is aiming to commercialize its driverless transportation service by 2020. The company says it will seek to offer unmanned cabs to users including travelers from overseas and locals in areas where buses and trains are not available.
Shinjiro Koizumi, son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and a vice minister in the current government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, appeared at an event Thursday afternoon to promote the driverless-taxi effort. “There are a lot of people who say it’s impossible, but I think this will happen faster than people expect,” he said.
The project is a part of the government’s effort to promote innovation and startup businesses.
Among companies trying to turn driverless cars into business is Google Inc., which started testing its system in Texas in July.
Author: Jun Hongo