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Toyota restarts driverless vehicles: Tokyo 2020

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Toyota is restarting the operations of its autonomous vehicles after an accident at the Tokyo Paralympic Games Village.

Last week a visually impaired athlete got hit by a vehicle and since then services of the e-Palette pods were paused.

Although the athlete was not seriously injured, still he did not participate in the event because of cuts and bruises.

The vehicles will now have more operator control and extra staff to ensure they do not hit any more people.

On Thursday while walking across a pedestrian crossing Aramitsu Kitazono, a member of Japan’s judo team, was hit by a vehicle.

And due to this accident, he was not able to compete in his 81kg category.

In a statement late on Monday, Toyota said: 

“The vehicle’s sensor detected the pedestrian crossing and activated the automatic brake, and the operator also activated the emergency brake. The vehicle and pedestrians, however, came into contact before it came to a complete halt.”

The company said that operators would now be given control over how fast the vehicles travel, with two members of safety staff on board, rather than one, to help lookout for pedestrians.

The warning sounds would be louder as a new safety feature. Also, the pedestrian guides at busy crossings in the Paralympic village will be increased to 20 from six.

Toyota also said that it would continue to make safety improvements “on a daily basis” until the village closes.

It further added that it was co-operating with a local police investigation to determine the cause of the accident.

Chief executive’s apology

On Friday, Toyota chief executive Akio Toyoda made a public apology after the incident.

“A vehicle is stronger than a person, so I was obviously worried about how they were,” he said in a YouTube video.

Mr Toyoda said the accident showed just how difficult it was to operate self-driving vehicles in the special circumstances of the village during the Paralympics.

There are people there who are visually impaired or have other disabilities who could get hurt.

“It shows that autonomous vehicles are not yet realistic for normal roads,” he added.

 

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