World’s first autonomous taxi to operate on public roads is in central Tokyo where it started to work today. The vehicle is made by Tokyo-based robot maker ZMP and operated by the taxi company Hinomaru Kotsu, according to Asia Nikkei.
The taxi carries passengers along a set 5.3 km route from Tokyo Station to Roppongi entertainment district. The trip costs YEN 1,500 (USD 13.5) for one way and passengers use a smartphone app to get the trip and pay.
The two companies are hoping to begin full commercial operations in 2020 when Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympics. This first project is partly financed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and will run until September 8.
According to ZMP, autonomous vehicles will cut the cost of taxi services, making them more widely available. Demand is expected to rise with the coming tourist during the games but also cheap taxis could also help deal with shortages of public transport in remote areas.
The taxi operates fully on its own, but a driver is still present behind the wheel in case of emergency.