(JapanToday)— Tests on public roads of an autonomous taxi carrying passengers will be held in central Tokyo for nearly two weeks from late August with the aim of launching the service in 2020, a venture firm and a major taxi company said.
ZMP Inc., a Tokyo-based developer of autonomous driving technology, and Hinomaru Kotsu Co. will conduct the tests from Aug 27 to Sept 8 over a route of some 5.3 kilometers between commercial facilities in Tokyo’s Otemachi and Roppongi districts, they said.
The initiative comes as competition intensifies in the development of autonomous vehicles. General Motors Co and Waymo, a spinoff of tech giant Google, have started tests on public roads, while Nissan Motor Co and DeNA Co conducted tests on a ride-hailing service in Yokohama, near Tokyo, in March.
The Japanese government has allowed the testing of automated driving systems on public roads since 2017 in the hope of accelerating commercialization of the technology ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and also to address the shortage of drivers in an aging society.
In the trials, ZMP and Hinomaru Kotsu will solicit customers to ride in the autonomous vehicle through a website. Four round-trips will be offered a day with a fee for a single trip between the facilities set at 1,500 yen.
The unlocking of doors and payment will be executed through 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, they said.
“It is necessary to introduce autonomous driving as taxi users are expected to increase ahead of the Tokyo Olympics,” said Hinomaru Kotsu President Kazutaka Tomita.