Driverless taxis carrying real passengers will start nearly two weeks of testing on public roads in the capital next month with an eye to starting service in 2020, a tech firm and a major cab company said.
ZMP Inc., a Tokyo-based developer of autonomous driving technology, and domestic cab firm Hinomaru Kotsu Co. will test the vehicles from Aug. 27 to Sept. 8 over a route about 5.3 km long between the Otemachi and Roppongi districts, they said Wednesday.
"It is necessary to introduce autonomous driving as taxi users are expected to increase ahead of the Tokyo Olympics," said Hinomaru Kotsu President Kazutaka Tomita.
General Motors Co. and Waymo, a spinoff of Google parent Alphabet Inc., have already started similar tests, while Nissan Motor Co. and DeNA Co. conducted tests of a ride-hailing service in Yokohama in March.
The government signed off on such tests in 2017 to accelerate the commercialization of the technology for the Olympics and to ease a growing cabbie shortage as the population shrinks and grays.
In the trials, ZMP and Hinomaru Kotsu will use the internet to solicit volunteers to ride one of the autonomous vehicles. Four round-trips will be offered a day, with one-way rides costing ¥1,500 ($13).
Payment services, as well as the unlocking of the doors, will be executed through a smartphone app. Both a driver and an assistant will be on board for safety purposes, but the actual driving will be conducted automatically using ZMP's system, the companies said.