Japan’s transport ministry held a test-ride event Wednesday for ultramini electric vehicles and other mobility equipment on show as alternatives to conventional compact automobiles and other smaller vehicles, particular for the elderly.
The event follows growing concern over a recent series of car accidents involving older drivers, highlighting a need for safer vehicles for use mainly by senior citizens for daily outings such as shopping.
A total of 19 models from 11 companies, including electric wheelchairs and power-assisted bicycles, were displayed at the event held on the premises of the ministry in Tokyo.
Among the products exhibited were the i-Road ultracompact electric vehicle from Toyota Motor Corp. and a single-seater electric three-wheeler. Over 150 visitors came to view and ride the vehicles.
“It felt more stable than I expected, and the ride was comfortable,” said Takashi Ishige, a 49-year-old corporate employee from Yokohama, after testing out an ultramini electric vehicle. “I think it may be useful for traveling to nearby shops,” he added.
Thanks to their low speed, the risk of major accidents involving ultramini electric vehicles is likely to be low compared with conventional smaller automobiles.
“Recent painful accidents caused by elderly drivers have raised questions about senior people driving cars, but they still need a mode of transport,” transport minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters after test-driving about 10 vehicles at the event.
Seko said his ministry will work with other related ministries and agencies to introduce measures to promote the ultramini electric and other new vehicles, such as providing subsidies to buyers and setting up specialized traffic lanes for such vehicles.