Image courtesy: Technology Times
Toyota has suspended its self-driving shuttle service in Tokyo’s Olympic Village after one of its vehicles collided with a visually impaired athlete, according to Reuters. Technically, the car was not operating autonomously at the time of the event, but was under manual control.
During the Olympics, Toyota operated hundreds of its “e-Palette” shuttles as a showcase of a futuristic idea initially shown off by the firm in 2018. The carmaker stated at the time that its e-Palettes, which are modular battery-electric cars without typical controls like as steering wheels or pedals, might be used as ride-hailing shuttles or mobile retail spaces.
Toyota sees the Olympics as a chance to showcase its innovative technologies. Athletes and Olympic personnel have been using the boxy cars for months previous to the commencement of the summer games.
However, that came to a stop last week when one of the cars collided with an athlete who was preparing to compete in the Paralympic Games. The shuttle was at a T-intersection when it collided with the athlete at a speed of 1-2 kilometres per hour, according to Reuters. At the time, the vehicle was under manual control, with a human operator using the joystick. The athlete was transported to a local medical facility for treatment and was able to walk back to their home.
Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda confirmed the incident in a YouTube video. According to Reuters, he stated that “autonomous cars are not yet practical on normal roads.”
A spokesman acknowledged that the e-Palette service had been suspended as a result of the accident and could not predict when it would be reinstated. According to the spokesman, this does not mean the end of the e-Palette initiative. “This does not imply that the entire e-Palette programme has been suspended beyond its current use at the Games,” he said.
Toyota’s shuttles resemble the low-speed autonomous pods that are already in use in cities across the world. In 2017, a driverless shuttle in Las Vegas collided with a vehicle while in autonomous mode. Investigators eventually found that the disaster occurred in part because the safety operator inside the shuttle lacked immediate access to the manual override controls.