Business

Tokyo taxi firms tie up to offer autonomous driving experience for foreign visitors

by Osamu Tsukimori

Staff Writer

A consortium of companies is offering foreign visitors in Tokyo a taste of autonomous driving, in the world’s first demonstration of a project that uses both an airport shuttle bus and a self-driving taxi to provide smooth travel from the airport to the Marunouchi shopping district near Tokyo Station.

The Mobility as a Service experiment, which allows reservations by smartphone, is to be operated from Jan. 20 to Feb. 1. Foreign nationals are able to reserve a shuttle bus from Haneda or Narita airport to Tokyo City Air Terminal, and then ride an autonomous taxi from there on the around 3 kilometers leg to Marunouchi. They will also be able to ride in a fully autonomous single-seat vehicle for free on select days, and use a tablet to choose their destination within the Marunouchi area.

The autonomous taxi will have a backup driver for safety reasons.

Reservations for foreign nationals via smartphone app began on Dec. 2 and will run until Jan. 9. The application window for Japanese nationals has been closed. The autonomous taxi and autonomous personal vehicle, called Robocar Walk, were developed by self-driving startup ZMP Inc.

The autonomous taxi service is to be operated by major taxi firms Nihon Kotsu Co. and Hinomaru Kotsu Co. The shuttle is operated by Airport Transport Service Co. and Tokyo City Air Terminal Co. Other companies supporting the experiment are JTB Corp. and Mitsubishi Estate Co.

The fare for travel from Narita Airport to Marunouchi Park Building is ¥3,800, while Haneda Airport to Marunouchi is ¥1,600. Reservations can also be made for only the autonomous taxi, for ¥1,200 (for more details, please visit www.zmp.co.jp/event/zmp-maas2019/foreign-visitors)

ZMP, together with Hinomaru Kotsu, conducted the world’s first autonomous taxi project demonstration in August 2018 to ease the chronic shortage of taxi drivers in high-demand metropolitan areas.