Japanese companies want autonomous taxis ready in time for 2020 Olympics

Toyota JPN Taxi concept
Several automakers have promised to put self-driving cars on sale by 2020, but some of the first members of the public to experience autonomous driving may be able to do it without buying one.

Japanese tech company DeNA and its partner ZMP hope to put autonomous taxis on the road by 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympic Games. Like certain U.S. tech companies, DeNA hopes to diversify its business beyond social media and other online interests to include robotic vehicles, according to Bloomberg.

“The Olympics are a good opportunity to show Japanese technology to the world,” DeNA general manager of new business development Hiroshi Nakajima said at a recent press conference in Tokyo. He said he would like to see self-driving taxis transporting athletes from the Olympic Village to events.

DeNA started out with online auctions in 1999, and subsequently moved on to social media and game development. It announced a partnership with ZMP to develop autonomous cars in 2008.

So far, ZMP has modified Toyota Prius hybrids to create its “RoboCar” demonstration vehicles. It’s also planning a similar conversion for the Toyota Estima, a hybrid minivan sold only in Japan. That will make a better platform for self-driving taxi services aimed at schoolchildren and the elderly in rural areas, the company says.

This Japanese effort isn’t the first one to attempt to combine a ride service with self-driving vehicles. Uber recently opened an autonomous-vehicle lab in concert with Carnegie Mellon University. Google has also expressed interest in ride sharing as an outgrowth of its autonomous-car research program.

If they’re ready in time, self-driving cars won’t be the only cutting-edge automotive tech to be showcased at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Toyota is already a major sponsor, and plans to use the games to promote its Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car. The Japanese national government and the city of Tokyo are also planning to increase the country’s hydrogen fueling infrastructure and put more fuel-cell vehicles on the road in time for the games.

Cars

Lyft and Aptiv’s self-driving car program has come a long way (but not far enough)

Many companies talk about self-driving cars, but Lyft and Aptiv are already using a fleet of them to transport paying customers in Las Vegas. Hop in for a close look at the tech of autonomous cars, and the challenges they face.
Cars

Worried about commuting in winter weather? Nissan has the answer

The Nissan Altima midsize sedan is now available with all-wheel drive. To advertise that fact, Nissan's Canadian division slapped some tank-like tracks on an Altima to create a one-off show car.
Cars

Driving Daimler’s 40-ton eCascadia big rig isn’t just fun, it’s electrifying

Daimler Trucks brought its all-electric eCascadia semi-truck to the 2019 CES, and invited us to take the wheel. What does it feel like to drive one? Simply electrifying, of course.
Cars

Sibling rivalry: 2019 BMW Z4 takes on the 2020 Toyota Supra

BMW and Toyota forged an unlikely partnership when they set out to build a sports car platform together. Here, we examine the similarities and differences between the 2019 Z4 and the 2020 Supra.
Cars

Michigan OKs digital license plates with Rplate’s connected car platform

The state of Michigan approved the use of digital license plates on motor vehicles registered in the state. Reviver Auto, the manufacturer of the Rplate connected car platform, worked with Michigan's Department of State to pass the bill.
Cars

This Chevy Silverado pickup truck is made from more than 300,000 Lego bricks

To promote The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, Lego and Chevrolet teamed up on a life-size replica of the automaker's Silverado pickup truck made from more than 300,000 plastic bricks.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

Prices for using Tesla Supercharging just skyrocketed

Tesla is updating their Supercharging pricing based on local electricity rates and customer demand, which has lead to an increase in charging costs by as much as 33 percent in some regions.
Cars

Can electric motors finally make three-wheeled cars great?

Every few years, someone tries to sell a three-wheeled vehicle to Americans. Historically, it hasn’t gone very well. We’ve got our suspicions about why people don’t buy trikes, and they boil down to this: a trike is just not a real…
Outdoors

Is Uber planning to put its self-driving tech into bikes and scooters?

Uber reportedly has its eye on building autonomous electric bikes and scooters that ride to a user when summoned by an app. The technology could also be used to make its two-wheelers safer with obstacle avoidance systems.
Cars

Someone just paid supercar money for the very first 2020 Toyota Supra

The 2020 Toyota Supra made its long-awaited debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The resurrected sports car, famous for a role in The Fast and the Furious, goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.
Cars

Lincoln’s stately, limited-edition flagship sedan sells out in a month

The 1961 Lincoln Continental became a design icon thanks to center-opening "coach doors" (also known as "suicide doors"). Lincoln is bringing those doors back for a special edition of the 2019 Continental.
Cars

Volkswagen is planning a tougher challenge for its all-electric I.D. R

The Volkswagen I.D. R electric race car will head to the Nürburgring for a lap-record attempt. Volkswagen will reportedly aim to set the quickest lap time ever by an electric car with the I.D. R.
Home Theater

Report: Spotify preparing to launch $100 in-car streaming device

According to a report, people familiar with Spotify's plans say the company is readying a dedicated in-car music streamer that will cost $100. It will work with any Bluetooth-enabled audio system and can be controlled by voice.