• Kyodo

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In the first test of its kind in Japan, a remote-controlled vehicle was tested Thursday on a public road in Aichi Prefecture, home to Toyota Motor Corp. and other auto firms.

For the government-conducted test, the minivan traveled along a 700-meter road in the town of Kota with no one in the driver’s seat and an assistant in the passenger seat. The route and traffic signs had been “memorized” by the system ahead of time.

A member of the testing team operated the minivan remotely from nearby Kota Community Hall with the aid of video transmitted by the van’s onboard camera. The assistant was present to stop the car in case of an emergency.

With cameras and radar monitoring the road for vehicles and pedestrians, the minivan made a brief stop at an intersection where reporters and photographers were gathered before continuing along the route at under 15 kph.

“The steering wheel rotated very smoothly. I felt like I was experiencing the technology of the near future,” said Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura after taking a test ride.

The Aichi Prefectural Government aims to promote the development of such technology and plans more tests by March in Nagoya and other locations. Any developments are expected to lead to the introduction of driverless taxis in the future.

Tokyo-based startup ZMP Inc. conducted a similar car test Thursday on a public road in Koto Ward. The remote-controlled vehicle went 150 meters at speeds of up to 20 kph. The company will hold another test on Dec. 23 that will be open to the public.

These sort of auto tests on public roads became possible after the National Police Agency revised traffic rules in June.

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