Japan is trying the self-driving Robot Shuttle in the rural area of Nishikata. In initial testing, the vehicle is to enable the elderly to nearly healthcare services, and move around the cities.
Autonomous vehicle technologies are being trialed in many parts of the world and rural Japan is joining the movement. Nishikata, 115 km from the capital of Tokyo, is one such area. Roughly one-third of its small population of 6,300 people are elderly, and with limited buses and bus drivers, it can be difficult for these residents to get around.
The new robot shuttle, is a six-seat driver-less bus from game developer Dena Co (which recently entered the world of self-driving vehicles). During the initial testing, which began in September, the bus transported people from a service area to a municipal complex with healthcare services.
See some of its images:
See an older clip of the robot shuttle:
“Smaller towns in Japan are greying even faster than cities, and there are just not enough workers to operate buses and taxis” said Hiroshi Nakajima, DeNA Co’s automotive director. The bus is also being tested under various road conditions, to see how people crossing in front of the vehicle react to its warning signal. Depending on the results of these tests, Japan’s government may convert highway rest stops into hubs that elderly residents can be picked up from.