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Toyota Resumes Paralympic Autonomous Bus After Hitting Visually-Impaired Athlete
By Alexa Heah, 31 Aug 2021
Image via Toyota
Toyota has continued service for its self-driving e-Palette pods at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo after an emergency pause last week, when a pod collided with a visually-impaired athlete.
Going forward, the automaker said it will be working with the Paralympic Committee to make safety adjustments, both inside and outside the pods.
On August 26, a Toyota e-Palette bus collided with Japanese judo athlete Aramitsu Kitazono at an intersection of the Paralympic village, just as he set foot on the crosswalk.
In a usual instance, the pod will stop automatically when it detects a pedestrian in its way. There are also two human safety operators onboard to manually resume the ride once it’s safe to proceed.
However, in this particular incident, both the pod’s autonomous driving sensors and the human operators activated the brakes too late. The e-Palette collided with Kitazono at a slow pace, but still injured him to an extent he couldn’t compete in the Games and had to bow out.
Now, Toyota is resuming the pods’ operations with new safety measures, one of which will be increasing the volume of the e-Palette warning sounds. Pod operators will also undergo additional training to help them deal with a wider range of possible scenarios, as per Electrek.
The company said that all acceleration and stops will be done manually, and more human traffic directors will be deployed to look out for pedestrians at intersections.
Interestingly, Toyota President Akio Toyoda expressed hesitancy at self-driving technology during his apology video on YouTube.
He said autonomous vehicles “are not yet realistic for normal roads.” This statement has certainly raised eyebrows, considering that his company provides autonomous vehicles for the Paralympic Games.
[via Electrek, cover image via Toyota]
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