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600 driverless cabs aiming to hit Tokyo in time for 2020 Olympics

With its Shinkansen ‘bullet trains’ and melodious subway system, Tokyo already has some of the world’s greatest public transport infrastructure. But the heavily populated city will be pushed to its limits come 2020, when the world descends on the Japanese capital as it plays host to the Olympic games.

One company looking to capitalise on the influx of tourists is robotics firm ZMP Inc. According to Reuters, it’s planing to team up with Tokyo’s Hinomaru Kotso cab firm to update its fleet of 600 cars with driverless technology.

ZMP has already had driverless cars on Tokyo’s streets, but each had a driver ready to wrestle control should the AI go wayward. It will begin testing truly driverless cars this year, ahead of its ambitious 2020 goal.

Motorway harmony

It’s an interesting partnership – many consider the incoming driverless revolution to be ringing the death knell for the traditional cab company. But ZMP sees the two businesses collaborating for the benefit of both.

“Autonomous taxis and the taxi industry can grow and prosper together,” said Hisashi Taniguchi, chief exec of ZMP.

With an ageing population, Japan is looking to rapidly embrace autonomous technologies before its labour force dwindles. Moving human drivers into other industries and offsetting the deficit with AI helpers could be one solution fitting for the nation seen globally as the world’s early adopters.


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