Two Japanese companies have set their sights on the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, with plans to have a fleet of robotic taxis up and running in time for the event.
If successful, the taxis would be used to transport athletes and games officials between venues and the games village in the ultimate advertisement for self-driven technology.
Gaming company DeNA Co. and robotics experts ZMP have formed the joint venture, which is currently in the testing phase for what it calls “robot taxis” using a fleet of autonomous vehicles based on Toyota’s Prius.
Over the last two years, the pair has developed car recognition, pedestrian recognition and heat-sensing technology to improve its self-driven prototypes.
“The Olympics are a good opportunity to show Japanese technology to the world, if our robot taxis are used for the transportation of athletes from their camp to the events,” DeNA’s Hiroshi Nakajima said, speaking with Bloomberg.
After the Olympics, the joint venture plans to make robot taxis available to the public, which can be hailed using a smartphone app.
Mr Nakajima said ZMP would concentrate on the autonomous technology while DeNA’s job was to develop the associated software, including the app.
The joint venture believes its biggest obstacle could come from Japan’s legal system. Like most of the world, Japan's road rules do not currently allow a taxi without a driver to accept fares and transport passengers.
The pair hopes all legal avenues associated with self-driven cars will be sorted ahead of the 2020 Games, with ZMP President Hisashi Taniguchi saying failure to do so could prevent Japan from showcasing its technology to the world.
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