Robotic Taxi drivers in Japan?

My mom was talking to a guy at a local store who told her he had just been in Japan and there they had robots driving all the taxis. He said that he was afraid to get into one at first, but he did and all went smoothly.

Now, I am not a expert on robotics, but I still believe that this is something that I would have heard about. (I develop software and much of my career has been spent developing software that talks to machines.)

However, I always remind myself that I don’t know every-damn-thing and so I am willing to ask. A quick google didn’t reveal anything except for the new pods at Heathrow.

Anyone know of anything like this?

Um, I have relatives in Japan and I think I’d have heard about this. I think he’s been watching too much Total Recall.

Abu Dhabi, perhaps: http://www.engadget.com/2009/02/04/masdar-citys-driverless-podcars-are-more-shuttle-than-johnny-ca/ (are these the same things as at Heathrow? I’m behind the times)

I don’t believe it.

To learn about some of the difficulties involved with driverless cars, read about the DARPA Grand Challenge. Car and Driver magazine also had a very good article about this sometime back.

Also, Wikipedia has an extensive article about driverless cars.

Judging by all these difficulties, even if there were a driverless car on a public road somewhere, I couldn’t imagine a taxi company wanting to get involved with the potential liability if there were an accident.

I’ve been to Tokyo a few times in the past year. The Taxi drivers I’ve had have been flesh and blood as far as I could tell. Maybe the guy knows something no one else does.

Like where to get the best ganja

This guy is full of it. Japanese taxi drivers are humans. It’s rather impressive for an American because they wear crisp uniforms with hats and white gloves, like a fancy chauffeur.

The closest thing I can think of to a robot taxi (and it’s not very close) is that there’s a lever or something in Japanese taxis that the driver can pull to open the back door for the passenger. So when a taxi stops for you, the door will open seemingly automatically for you to get in.

I was in several cabs in Tokyo last week and none of the drivers were robots. Based on how people drive there, I’d say if this is possible anywhere someday it would start in Tokyo.

They also get very nervous if you open the door yourself to get out. It’s probably some sort of a law or at least social protocol that they’re responsible for letting you out of the car safely.

The man your mother met is lying.

How ridiculous.

No, robots do not drive taxis in Japan.

The more bizarre thing is not that some guy thought he’d try to wind up some woman in the store - who apparently believed him - but that her son believed it also; enough to ask the question in public.

I have a bridge I’d like to sell you, by the way.

LOL. Luckily for me there will always be people like you on the internet to help set me straight…

DARPA Urban Challenge, 2007:

If the US military doesn’t have autonomous land vehicles yet, Japanese taxi companies don’t either.

DARPA Grand Challenge at Wikipedia

The taxi drivers in Japan, are usually old men.
Nothing robotic about them at all.

Was he talking about some amusement park?

Ah, who can say? I heard it from Mom who heard from someone else. Did she misunderstand or did he mislead? My guess is, he was a local know-it-all who picked a place sufficiently far enough away that he thought no one would be able to call him on it.

Could be they have these someplace in Japan too:

Electric Driverless Cabs – The Future or Fad?

The robots in Tokyo are all 100 feet tall. How could they drive cabs?

Typically, they’ll go in DISGUISE.