Thursday, August 11, 2022

Toyota pauses self-driving e-Palette vehicles after Olympic village accident

Toyota Motor said on Friday it had suspended all self-driving e-Palette transportation shuttles at the Tokyo Paralympic Games village. This comes one day after one of the vehicles injured a visually impaired pedestrian.

In a YouTube video, Toyota Chief Executive Akio Toyoda apologized for the incident.

“A vehicle is stronger than a person, so I was obviously worried about how they were,” he said, answering questions about the incident.

Toyota E-Palette

Toyoda said the accident showed the difficulty for the self-driving vehicle to operate in the special circumstances of the village during the Paralympics with people there who are visually impaired or have other disabilities.

“It shows that autonomous vehicles are not yet realistic for normal roads,” he said

The vehicle had stopped at a T junction and was about to turn under manual control of the operator, who was using the vehicle’s joystick control, when the vehicle hit the athlete going at around 1 or 2 kilometres an hour, Toyoda said.

He said Paralympic officials had told him that the athlete, who remained conscious, was taken to the athlete village medical centre for treatment and was able to walk back to their residence.


We would like to mention that Toyota isn’t the only company testing autonomous vehicles in Japan. Softbank’s Boldly has been testing the Navya Arma on Japan’s roads without any incidents so far.

The e-Palette, a fully autonomous battery-electric vehicle, was adapted specifically for use during the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, with large doors and electric ramps to allow groups of athletes to board quickly.

The company said it was cooperating with a local police probe to determine the cause of the accident, adding that it would also conduct its own investigation.

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