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Friday, 2nd October 2015
In Japan Travel News,

Japan to test self-driving taxis on public roads next year

Self-driving taxis could become a common sight on the roads of Japan, as tests are being given the go-ahead for next year.

The country is keen to show off its technological capabilities when it hosts the Olympic Games in 2020 and it is thought the vehicles could help with transport issues in Tokyo.

Tests will initially be carried out in the city of Fujisawa, not far from the capital, and the social media and gaming company DeNA Co is looking for around 50 people to take rides in the taxis for trial purposes.

The firm is not the only one to be developing driverless technology, with Uber and Google also working on such projects.

Hurdles to overcome in putting such vehicles on the road include the Road Traffic Act, which states there must be a person in the driver's seat of moving cars.

As the government is backing the testing, it may seek to overturn this legislation in order to show the world how Japan is leading the way in such areas.

Shinjiro Koizumi, parliamentary vice minister of the cabinet office, said: "We can't stick to the way we do business here in Japan, which is to unite everyone in the industry and work together.

"The government should create a competitive environment and welcome everyone to participate."

Toyota's Estima hybrid minivan has been selected for a retrofit to house the driverless technology, which will hit the streets in 2016.

Each vehicle will include two co-pilots, as well as the selected local residents during tested, which should ensure against any accidents.

If initial journeys go well, driverless technologies could be a common feature in Tokyo and eventually the rest of Japan's cities.