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Automated bus takes first test run in Akita

JIJI

A driverless bus with passengers on board slowly traversed a lakeside road in Senboku, Akita Prefecture, in the first public road test of an automated bus in the country.

The electric Robot Shuttle went back and forth Sunday on a closed-off 400-meter section of prefectural road along Lake Tazawa at speeds of around 10 kph. The bus, which carries 12, had six people on board.

DeNA Co. conducted the test on behalf of the Cabinet Office and the Senboku Municipal Government, which are exploring the possibility of introducing automated public transportation systems in sparsely populated areas.

The robot bus uses the global positioning system, sensors and cameras to navigate obstacles.

“As the ride was smooth and quiet, I thought I could enjoy chatting with a friend in the bus,” said Seiko Fujimura, a 77-year-old resident of Senboku, a state-designated special zone for regional revitalization.

“The bus gave me a more comfortable ride than the car driven by my father,” joked Rikuto Tomishima, an 8-year-old boy from the city.

Regional revitalization minister Kozo Yamamoto also took part in the road test and sat with other passengers.