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Tokyo want autonomous cabs

A robotics maker has teamed up with a Tokyo-based taxi firm to create autonomous cabs by the 2020 Olympic Games.

The Japanese capital is set to host the famous international sporting event in three years time and robotics company ZMP Inc and taxi firm Hinomaru Kotsu are keen to see driverless cabs ferry the thousands of athletes and spectators around at the event.

ZMP Inc's CEO Hisashi Taniguchi said: "Autonomous taxis and the taxi industry can grow and prosper together."

The taxi industry in Japan is currently experiencing a shortage of workers because of an ageing population and they think this will be a good solution to increase the number of cabs on the road and will stand strong against possible future competition from international firms like Uber.

Hinomaru President Kazutaka Tomita added: "We have been trying to improve diversity by hiring more new graduates, women and foreigners, but this will not be enough to ease labour shortages. We will have to compensate for the lack of supply by using autonomous driving technology."

ZMP is currently working on automated driving hardware and software, which works using laser and stereo cameras. There are also plans to hopefully sell this on to other companies so it can be used more widely.

The firm has already been testing self-driving vehicles for a year, but someone has always been in the car. They hope to test fully autonomous vehicles later this year.

It comes after Uber revealed they are working on their first flying taxis, which they hope will hit the skies in 2020.

They wrote in a white paper at the time: "We expect that daily long-distance commutes in heavily congested urban and suburban areas and routes under-served by existing infrastructure will be the first use cases for urban VTOLs ...

"We also believe that in the long-term, VTOLs will be an affordable form of daily transportation for the masses, even less expensive than owning a car. Normally, people think of flying as an expensive and infrequent form of travel, but that is largely due to the low production volume manufacturing of today's aircraft. Even though small aircraft and helicopters are of similar size, weight, and complexity to a car, they cost about 20 times more."

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