Driverless taxi to begin testing in Japan

Just when you thought Uber was the thing of the future, here come the Japanese with their robotic taxis, ready to ruin not just regular taxi drivers, but these ride-sharing apps, as well.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday afternoon how the Japanese are set to start testing driverless taxis in 2016. That's in three months, just in case you forgot.

The Robot Taxi Inc. company will start offering autonomous rides to 50 people in Kanagawa prefecture, just outside Tokyo. The limited testing phase will transport people from their homes to local stores and back, on a route which is some three kilometres long. Of course, every vehicle will have a driver, but he will only be present in case things turn ugly.

According to the report, if the trials are successful, Japan is planning on having these babies out on the streets by 2020. The idea, at least initially, will be to run routes in places where public transport isn't built out, as well as helping tourists get around.

Shinjiro Koizumi, son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and a vice minister in the current government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, appeared at an event Thursday afternoon to promote the driverless-taxi effort. “There are a lot of people who say it’s impossible, but I think this will happen faster than people expect,” he said.

Japan is not the only country testing driverless vehicles. The Netherlands already have a driverless shuttle capable of transporting up to six people, and the United Kingdom is also testing a few vehicles itself.