Robotaxi tests begin on public roads in Tokyo

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Driverless taxis hit the streets in Tokyo this week. The companies behind the test program – a developer of autonomous vehicle (AV) technology and a major taxi company – are claiming to be the first in the world to offer autonomous taxi services to fare-paying passengers on public roads (The Japan Times).

ZMP Inc., the Tokyo-based tech developer, and Hinomaru Kotsu Co., one of the country’s largest taxi companies, will operate the test program through September 8.

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Customers for the rides – which will operate between Tokyo’s Otemachi and Roppongi districts – will be solicited through a website. Riders will unlock doors and make payments with a smartphone app. “A driver and an assistant will be in the taxi for safety purposes but the actual driving of the vehicle will be conducted automatically using ZMP’s system,” reported The Mainichi newspaper.

The companies hope to have a full version of the service operating in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Robotaxi in Tokyo
ZMP’s RoboCar MiniVan, a self-driving taxi based on a Toyota Estima Hybrid and operated by Hinomaru Kotsu taxi company, began road tests in Tokyo on August 27. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

More reporting needed on this topic:

Other robotaxi plans

• General Motors plans to launch a commercial AV taxi service in the United States in 2019. The company has created its own ride-hailing platform and plans to get its Cruise self-driving car unit ready to compete in the emerging robotaxi business next year (The Los Angeles Times).

• Alphabet-owned Waymo says it will launch AV taxis in Arizona in 2018 (Investor’s Business Daily; The Register).

• Ford is targeting a 2021 launch for a similar service (Investor’s Business Daily).

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Safety concerns and consumer confidence

• Released in June, the Global Automotive Outlook report from Detroit-based AlixPartners reported 56 percent of U.S. consumers aren’t confident AV’s can safely transport people.

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