Japan is planning to use the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as an opportunity to show the world it’s still a tech leader. One of those efforts—if the technology and regulatory clearances shape out—could be an autonomous, self-driving taxi service, currently in development.
Tokyo-based Robot Taxi is still on track to start field tests of its driverless-taxi service in one region of Japan by the end of next March, its chief executive Hiroshi Nakajima told Quartz today. The company, a joint venture between DeNA (one of Japan’s mobile-Internet pioneers) and ZMP (a robotics firm; tagline “Robot of Everything”) is not building its own cars from scratch. Instead, it’s focusing on adding driverless capabilities to existing cars and designing, creating, and marketing the taxi service.
One key market for the service, Nakajima says, is Japan’s increasingly elderly population, especially in rural areas where there may be driver shortages. But his goal is also to have thousands of taxis in service in Tokyo by 2020, if possible. (For context, there were reportedly more than 50,000 taxis in Tokyo last year.)