Tokyo robotics firm ready to build driverless cabs for 2020 Olympics

tokyo driverless cabs 2020 taxi
Trevor Mogg
Japanese cabs are already a little bit robotic thanks to their automatic doors, which the driver operates from the comfort of their seat.

But as part of plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, hundreds of taxis in the capital city are gearing up to go full-robot, doing away with their driver altogether to offer rides in self-driving cars.

The government has been talking of such a move for the last couple of years, and this week Tokyo-based robotics maker ZMP announced it’s inked a deal with local taxi firm Hinomaru Kotsu to make it a reality, Reuters reported.

Similar to companies like Waymo, ZMP is developing automated driving technology — both software and hardware — that uses lasers, sensors, cameras and other equipment to guide a driverless car and its occupants safely through traffic.

The company has been testing its technology on the roads of Tokyo since last year with a view to incorporating it into a fleet of taxis ready to transport athletes and sports fans around the city during the Olympics and beyond. While current tests involve an engineer in the driver’s seat monitoring the car’s progress, the plan is to have a car on the road without a safety driver by the end of this year.

A number of competing taxi firms in Japan’s capital are also interested in putting autonomous cabs on the road, with some turning to local car giant Toyota for help with the technology.

Japan’s self-driving plan for the Olympics isn’t only a way for the nation to showcase its advanced technologies. Such a system could also help relieve the pressure on taxi companies which, because of the nation’s declining birth rate and resulting fall in the number of available workers, are finding it increasingly hard to find new drivers.

“We’ve been trying to improve diversity by hiring more new graduates, women, and foreigners, but this will not be enough to ease labor shortages,” Kazutaka Tomita, Hinomaru president, told Reuters, adding, “We’ll have to compensate for the lack of supply by using autonomous driving technology.”

ZMP boss Hisashi Taniguchi promised that “autonomous taxis and the taxi industry can grow and prosper together” as he looked forward to transforming the streets of Tokyo with driverless cars.

Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.
Cars

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.
Cars

LM Industries’ autonomous shuttles head to Phoenix, Sacramento campuses

LM Industries will deploy Olli low-speed autonomous shuttles at school campuses in Arizona and California as part of its ongoing "fleet challenge," which asks local groups to propose uses for autonomous vehicles.
Cars

NYC mandates minimum wage for Uber, Lyft, other app-based rideshare drivers

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a rule that drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft must be paid at least minimum wage, even though they are independent contractors. The new pay rate includes operating costs.
Cars

Infiniti previews its leap into one of the hottest industry segments

Infiniti has released a teaser image to preview a concept it will unveil at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The yet-unnamed design study is an electric crossover shaped by Infiniti's newest design language.
Cars

What’s next for in-car entertainment? Audi believes it knows

Audi is bringing two technologies to CES 2019. The first turns a car -- a luxury sedan, in this case -- into a drive-in movie theater. The second is presented as a new entertainment format that turns the journey into the destination.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

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!
Product Review

The all-new 3 Series proves BMW can still build a compelling sport sedan

Seat time in the entry-level BMW 330i ($41,425) and M340i xDrive ($54,995) will test the German automaker’s commitment to driving dynamics, powertrain refinement, and cutting edge technology.
Cars

California wants all-electric public bus fleet on its roads by 2040

California approved a regulation that targets an all-electric public bus fleet for the whole state by 2040. The effect of the full implementation of the regulation is equivalent to taking 4 million cars off the road.
Cars

1,000-mph Bloodhound supersonic car project finds a last-minute savior

The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) project has found a buyer. The project was going to be disbanded after running out of funds, but its assets were purchased by British businessman Ian Warhurst.
Cars

Ford’s prototype Quiet Kennel uses noise-canceling tech to keep dogs stress-free

Ford is ending 2018 by venturing into the doghouse market. The company's European division has built a kennel equipped with active noise-canceling technology and soundproof walls that help dogs sleep through fireworks.
Mobile

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.
Cars

The best compact cars pack full-size features in fun-size packages

The best compact cars on the market rival their counterparts in many ways, proving that bigger isn’t always better. Here, we've rounded up some of the better options available, including an SUV and an electric alternative.
Cars

Lincoln revives its coolest-ever design feature for limited-edition Continental

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.