A new challenger in the self-driving car space emerges, with an ambitious goal.
Robot Taxi, Inc. has announced that it will begin testing a taxi service with self-driving cars in 2016, with the aim to have a fully operational commercial service in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Japan Real Time blog.
Testing will begin south of Tokyo with simple routes designed to bring passengers from their homes to get groceries.
The company is a joint venture between internet company DeNA and driverless car technology company ZMP. It’s part of a larger push by the Japanese government to foster technological innovation.
Like the initial driverless car efforts of Japanese automaking giant Toyota, Robot Taxi is putting a heavy emphasis on mobility for the elderly. Japan has one of the highest elderly populations on the globe, so enabling the elderly to live better, more free lives is an important goal.
Robot Taxi also looks to help people with disabilities and visitors to Japan, putting its goal of being operational for the 2020 Olympics into focus. That’s an ambitious target, to say the least, and it’s unclear if it will be reached.
Autonomous car technology has come a long way in recent years, but even still, aims of being ready in five years are bold. Google has been the most vocal in its development of self-driving cars but, even though it started development in 2009, it still hasn’t released a definitive timeline.
For self driving cars to hit the road, the technology will need to be as flawless as possible and numerous regulatory hurdles will need to be cleared. With strong government backing, Robot Taxi might not have as much a challenge with latter, but the former is still considerable.
The fight to bring driverless cars to the road becomes more crowded seemingly every day; U.S tech and auto companies, German automakers and, most recently, Japanese tech and auto companies are all working towards a similar goal.