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Japan tries driverless buses to keep rural elderly on the move

25 Comments
By Naomi Tajitsu

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25 Comments
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"I worry about not being able to go out when I'm no longer able to drive,"

I worry about going out when you ARE driving

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Japan could launch launch self-driving services for remote communities by 2020

Why tha hell does everything have to be tied to the Olympics?

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Very cool.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@sensei258 If the Olympics energizes people to do things, then it is a good thing to tie it in. Goals and deadlines are good motivators.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

This is good news. Transportation is a very important part of keeping the rural areas alive. I hope to see more driverless facilities like this. I also hope that the lack of a driver and having to pay them a wage will drive the fee down as well. fingers crossed

0 ( +0 / -0 )

what would happen if a small child ran in front of these buses? Will it stop or swerve to avoid hitting ht e child? If (and when) they are able to go faster, would the bus prioritize the saving the life of the child or the passengers in the bus?

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

cool until it malfunctions and hurts someone, some things should not be automated. Trains, yes. Cars, no. Lets get the train system automated first, too much liability and possible accidents on open roads

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Designed and built by a French company called EasyMile. Good for the old folks, though. Some of those depopulated villages are scary, like an alien abduction movie; all the infrastructure is there but there are no people. It must be really depressing living in one.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

10 kph? You might as well have saved the money on this and bought everyone a bike.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Good idea but far too slow.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

10 km/h top speed is only slightly slower than half-crazed, visually impaired octogenarians driving in kettle drum kei cars on the back streets.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Something that big and that slow on a regular road is dangerous because it forces everyone to overtake it. The idea is great though, so they just have to get it to go faster.

While its good for old folks to have human contact, its costly and wasteful for them to go to the doctors every week or two weeks for the same prescription. I bet some journeys to the bank, post office, and town hall could also be avoided using simple apps.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I bet some journeys to the bank, post office, and town hall could also be avoided using simple apps.

Some things are better done in person. Also, many people, including myself, don't have smartphones or want to use one, especially for financial or personal tasks.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I agree about doing things in person, but these are old people asking to be ferried large distances for below cost fares in areas so sparsely populated that they cannot support public transport. The towns in question are suffering from kasoka, across the board decline from falling and ageing population, so simply maintaining existing services is a problem for them, never mind introducing new ones.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Glad old people can stilk have social life by moving around.

About safety : true anyone will blame the machine in case of accidents, but on average there will be far fewer. Think of vaccine, it is sale issue.

Of course it is a matter of technology and the 10 kph will rise with time for the happiness of old foljs and handiccaped people too.

This may help stop depopulation for real. So good move.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

what would happen if a small child ran in front of these buses? Will it stop or swerve to avoid hitting ht e child? If (and when) they are able to go faster, would the bus prioritize the saving the life of the child or the passengers in the bus? the sensor and software in these automated vehicles are designed to avoid obstacles stationary and moving. what you should be asking is, "would I trust a automated bus like this to stop in time from running over a child or would I trust an older person driving their K truck to stop in time instead?" the statistics are already there, automated vehicles currently available have lower accident rates than their human equivalents and this will only improve as the tech improves. The vast majority of traffic accidents are from human error these type of vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives all over the world every year.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

too much liability and possible accidents on open roads and that is almost always caused by human error, sleepy drivers, drunk drivers, speeding drivers, in-alert drivers. automated vehicles have none of these traits. The stats already show that automated vehicles have lower accident rates than humans and this will only improve as the tech becomes more advanced.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

as long as it keeps elderly drivers who are unfit to drive off the roads its good.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

what would happen if a small child ran in front of these buses? Will it stop or swerve to avoid hitting ht e child? If (and when) they are able to go faster, would the bus prioritize the saving the life of the child or the passengers in the bus? the sensor and software in these automated vehicles are designed to avoid obstacles stationary and moving. what you should be asking is, "would I trust a automated bus like this to stop in time from running over a child or would I trust an older person driving their K truck to stop in time instead?" the statistics are already there, automated vehicles currently available have lower accident rates than their human equivalents and this will only improve as the tech improves. The vast majority of traffic accidents are from human error these type of vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives all over the world every year.

excellent point.

too much liability and possible accidents on open roads and that is almost always caused by human error, sleepy drivers, drunk drivers, speeding drivers, in-alert drivers. automated vehicles have none of these traits. The stats already show that automated vehicles have lower accident rates than humans and this will only improve as the tech becomes more advanced.

Lets not forget the idiots that text or use line while driving or just plain bad drivers in general...yeah automation for me any day thank you very much.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

the big question is who is going to pay for all this? it's a great idea until the bill comes , and then everyone heads for the door.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

JR, manufacturers, local governments.

Still surprised have only seen train prices go up twice in 20yrs here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

what would happen if a small child ran in front of these buses? Will it stop or swerve to avoid hitting ht e child? If (and when) they are able to go faster, would the bus prioritize the saving the life of the child or the passengers in the bus?

The bus would probably break in the safest way possible. If it was only doing 10kph, the child would have to literally throw themselves at the bus to get seriously injured.

If the bus was going at 40 kph, there would still be a good chance of breaking in time to avoid death/serious injury. However, it might be possible to have software that meant the bus would slow down if it detected a person by the roadside, so there would be an even higher chance of breaking.

There's also the fact that a robo-bus would always be alert. It wouldn't be distracted by passengers asking questions, having a coughing fit, being tired/bored, being harassed by a vehicle behind wanting to get in front, etc.

But, if a collision was unavoidable, the bus would prioritise the life of the passengers. First, that is how many human drivers would react anyway - they wouldn't deliberately crash their vehicle and kill them/their passengers to save the life of one other. Some do swerve instinctively, but not all. That's what driving instructors teach you - use the emergency break, don't try to pull a James Bond stunt.

Second, the lives of several people are obviously more important than one.

It's wrong to preemptively blame robo-vehicles for doing things that a) many/most people would do and b) is probably the logical choice.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's part of a reasonable solution for public transport everywhere. Once fully developed self driving vehicles will be safer than human driven ones. More speed will come but I imagine they will always be restricted, particularly in built up areas. A child struck at 30-35kph is unlikely to be killed even if the vehicle can't avoid or brake to a stop in time.

There will always be a cost attached. But in all likelihood those will be paid as now, a combination of taxpayers and users will pay. I've no objection to the elderly and disabled getting a free ride, I'm riding on the shoulders of those that came before me. In this case they bought the infrastructure I use. I think all elderly people should maintain their mobility and with it their independence for as long as possible. Much better than being cooped up with a smartphone and a few apps to keep you company. I hope this gaines momentum.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In my inaka town, most buses are driven by the elderly!! These contraptions will grind traffic to a halt, nightmare

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I can just imagine the Self-driving bus, trying to wait for an elderly person to board.. the doors -they will try to close just as the elderly person moves forward, then back off. as too the elderly person, who then tries again. and the process repeats. Clearly something has to give in the end, so a very unreliably timetable, would be one thing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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