Self-driving minibuses are set to hit public roads in Japan next year. The driverless cars are part of a project meant to help passengers from remote areas get home or to their dear ones fast and safe #automagic
SoftBank Drive was created last year with one goal: to ensure that (especially elderly) people from rural areas can reach their destination safe. The company has since gathered attention from several companies, including Yahoo Japan. They have invested 490 million JPY ($4.4 million) to speed up the development of autonomous public transport. Plus, the company will get the chance to link the cars with Yahoo Maps and use the data to provide extra information such as weather, traffic congestion and other events.
So far, the SB Drive self-driving minibus has went only on “social testing”. Basically, the start-up used public buses equipped with the driverless tech to cover fixed routes. In the demo provided by the company, you can see seats for around 10 people and a human operator constantly watching the drive and ready to interfere if something goes wrong.
Only when the cameras “see” all the passengers in their seats, the gas-powered vehicle resumes its route:
If all goes well, SoftBank Drive should test the self-driving vehicles on public roads next year. The plan is to make the autonomous minibuses reality in 2020. So far, the company has the support of four municipalities in Japan.