Japan announces plans for a thousand-strong fleet of autonomous, self-driving taxis that are currently being developed in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The project is being led by Tokyo-based, Robot Taxi, who is working together with Japan’s mobile Internet pioneer, DeNA, and robotics firm ZMP, to add driverless capabilities to existing cars. According to Chief Executive of Robot Taxi, Hiroshi Nakahima, the company will begin field tests for the technology by the end of next March.
While the country has yet to sign off on regulations surrounding the self-driving taxi fleet, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has openly expressed support for the initiative saying: “I can tell you that in 2020 Tokyo, self-driving cars will be running around and you will be able to use them to move around.”
The development of unmanned vehicles not only offers a solution for the influx of tourists who will arrive for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but addresses the needs of an increasing elderly population in rural areas of Japan as well, the latter being seen as a primary target market for the service.
The technology also offers a less expensive transportation option. “When you look at manned taxis, 70% of the cost is actually related to labor costs. If we can replace that part with [artificial intelligence], I think we’ll be able to provide a very attractive price point.”