Self-driving buses back online in Tokyo after hitting Paralympic athlete

Toyota will resume the use of its self-driving buses, e-Palette Pods, at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games today after one hit a visually impaired athlete.

The Guardian reported that the Paralympian, Aramitsu Kitazono, was not severely injured but was forced to drop out of the Games’ judo event on Saturday.

The incident prompted a public apology from Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s Chief Executive.

“We are very sorry that the accident has made many people worried,” Toyoda said.

“A vehicle is stronger than a person, so I was obviously worried about how they were. It shows that autonomous vehicles are not yet realistic for normal roads.”

The Japanese car manufacturer temporarily suspended the self-driving bus service and apologised for the “overconfidence” of the self-driving vehicle.

“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,” Toyota said.

According to a Toyota spokesperson, operators will now control how fast the buses travel, and each vehicle will now have two safety staff members looking out for pedestrians.

Improved safety features also require e-Palette warning sounds to be turned up and busy crossings to be manned by 20 pedestrian guides — up from 6.

Toyota also said that safety improvements would continue to be made on a daily basis.


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Self-driving buses back online in Tokyo after hitting Paralympic athlete