Self-driving taxis created by DeNA Co, a social media and gaming company, will undergo testing in collaboration with the Japanese government in Fujisawa city, west of Tokyo.
The pilot scheme will involve around 50 local residents taking part in test rides on public roads, in the presence of two human co-pilots for safety reasons, according to Bloomberg.
Created in collaboration with ZMP, a robotics start-up based in Tokyo, the self-driving taxis are reportedly retrofitted versions of the Estima hybrid minivan made by Toyota, complete with sensors and image recognition technology.
It also confirms Japan’s strong position in the global race to create a new generation of autonomous vehicles, alongside a slew of technology and car-making companies such as Google, Apple and Tesla.
However, in order for the self-driving robot taxis by DeNA to be used in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the government will have to overcome legal hurdles, as the nation’s Road Traffic Act currently requires occupants in drivers’ seats.
“We can’t stick to the way we do business here in Japan, which is to unite everyone in the industry and work together,” Shinjiro Koizumi, parliamentary vice minister of the cabinet office, told reporters at a briefing in Yokohama.
"The government should create a competitive environment and welcome everyone to participate."