Google, Uber and a handful of other firms are already working hard to develop self-driving cars in the U.S. but, in Japan, one company could be ready to launch the first totally automated vehicle as soon as next year.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Japanese giant DeNA‘s Robot Taxis will begin real world testing in early 2016. The company plans to offer rides to around 50 people in a region just south of Tokyo. To start, the self-driving cars would be programmed to pick passengers up at home and bring them to a nearby grocery store.
Each ride will be roughly two miles long, and the route will include busy city streets. The company will have its own crew members in each car to observe and potentially step in to avoid accidents. In most cases, though, the entire ride will be automated.
It’s no big shock that Japan could be the first country to test self-driving taxis in public. In a part of the world where robot-operated hotels and robotic department store clerks already exist, robot taxis seems like a logical next step.