Japanese company aims for autonomous taxis by 2020

Japanese company aims for autonomous taxis by 2020

As the fight for the autonomous car to market heats up, a new contender from Japan is entering the fray, and hopes to have vehicles on the road by 2020.

We’ve all heard about the familiar companies such as Google, Audi, Hyundai and Tesla working on self-driving cars. The University of Michigan recently opened a $10 million testing facility dedicated to the endeavor in Detroit’s backyard. It only makes sense that other nations are working on what has been seen as the “holy grail” of transportation tech since before George Jetson opened his first flying suitcase car.

DeNA, a Tokyo-based tech company, believes it can have driverless cars on Japan’s streets by 2020, according to Bloomberg. The date just happens to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics taking place that year, and would help visitors and athletes navigate the the city’s famously labyrinthine and often unnamed streets.

Japan has famously used the Olympics as a showcase for its technology. The last time Tokyo hosted the games, in 1964, Japan completed the nation’s first expressway, the bullet train and the first trans-Pacific television broadcast to welcome the world. Currently the cars are modified versions of the last-generation Prius, but the DeNA is in the process of updating to the larger Toyota Estima van (sold in the 1990s as the Previa in the US).

DeNA’s partner, ZMP, develops helper robots similar to Honda’s ASIMO. Microsoft, Invidia and others have also signed on. DeNA, for its part, began as an online auction site, but has since moved on to the lucrative social gaming market. Could the creator of “Pirate’s Treasure” be the first to market with a driverless car?

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