Passengers get onboard self-driving taxi in Tokyo

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Original article: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180827_24

A self-driving taxi has started cruising the streets of central Tokyo. The cab is on a 2-week trial run, picking up passengers.

Japanese venture firm ZMP developed the vehicle. The company has teamed up with local taxi operator Hinomaru Kotsu.

The first passengers were a family of 3. They used a smartphone app to open the doors.

The cab is making 4 round-trips a day between an office building near Tokyo station and a major commercial tower about 5 kilometers away in the Roppongi area.

There’s a driver on board just in case. But most of the navigation is done automatically, including turning at intersections and changing lanes.

Officials at the companies say this is the first time in the world for a self-driving taxi to carry paying customers.

One of the passengers said, “The ride was quite smooth. It was amazing that driving was done almost automatically.”

Hinomaru Kotsu President & CEO Kazutaka Tomita said, “We’re facing a severe challenge from labor shortages. So we hope to tap self-driving technology to make up for a lack of drivers, as well as improving convenience.”

The company is aiming to commercialize autonomous taxis by the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The trial runs until September 8th.