As early as next year, individuals in Japan will be able to call on a self-driving taxi for their daily commute.
Since Google kicked off their autonomous automobile program, the goal of allowing robots to pilot a vehicle has become more and more plausible. And now, reports The Wall Street Journal, a fleet of self-driving taxis are scheduled to hit the roads of Japan as soon as next year!
Robot technology has come a long way in a short period of time. Not only have scientists created a so-called ‘psychic robot’ that can predict human behavior, robots are already replacing human employees in establishments like McDonald’s.
A partnership between the Japanese federal government and Robot Taxi will see 50 people participate in a trial scheme in the Kanagawa prefecture, just south of Tokyo. The trips will span about 3 kilometers and involves some of the main roads in the city. Human drivers will still be on hand in case they need to take over in an emergency situation.
Company Robot Taxi aims to get its driverless transportation service commercialized by the turn of the decade (2020 also happens to be the same target Google set itself for getting its cars out of testing and on sale to those who fancy them).
“There are a lot of people who say it’s impossible, but I think this will happen faster than people expect.”
“Vehicles will be able to pick up and drop off citizens long after they’ve become too frail to actually drive themselves – and that can make a huge difference to people who would otherwise be stuck at home all day.”
There’s another reason Robot Taxi would like its self-driving cars released before 2020: the Tokyo Olympic games. For the event, spectators and even athletes could be ferried around in cars without drivers and summoned with a tap on a smartphone. Apparently, the driver-less vehicles will also have a GPS system “to keep tabs on their current location” (which is a bit of a frightening prospect, as well).
As the world is aware by now, however, Japanese firms are rarely shy in bringing robotic technology to consumers as quickly as possible. This is the country, after all, that has a hotel entirely staffed by robots.
In the promotional video by Robot Taxi (above), an elderly couple gets picked up from their front doorstep and is driven through the countryside. The concept may seem a bit foreign and misunderstood, but self-driving cars are more-than-likely to become the norm in the future, as machines are less likely to err than human drivers.
A number of firms are presently working on developing this kind of self-driving car technology. Even Apple is rumored to have a self-driving car in the works (that’s not surprising, right?) though nothing is official yet.
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