Now training for the 2020 Olympics: robot taxis

December 9, 2015 admin

#IMG_2972Some people look forward to driverless cars with excitement and anticipation. Others consider them a blue-sky technology that will not make it to market in a timely or appreciable way until their great-great-grandchildren are shopping for their first dirigibles.

Maybe by time the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are completed there will be many more people in the former group than in the latter.

The Japanese, who sometimes seem obsessed with robots, have a company that has announced plans to roll out hundreds of driverless Robot Taxis to ferry Olympic-goers from venue to venue. The company in question is Tokyo-based Robot Taxi, and it still needs to obtain regulatory clearances from the government to swing its plan into action, and that will not be forthcoming until is successfully completes field tests of its driverless taxi service, starting in March 2016.

The Olympics will, of course, be a showcase for the company’s technology, but there are bigger, more abiding plans hanging in the balance, such as serving Japan’s rapidly expanding population of senior citizens, some of whom live in rural areas where driver shortages are a concern.

Then there is the economics of transportation services, where 70 percent of expenses are related to labor costs — which explains why Uber and trucking companies are hot for driverless technologies and self-driving cars and trucks.

There is also the startling case being made by some real estate analysts that driverless vehicles will dramatically reshape cities and alter property values, for better and for worse. (See “The driverless-car revolution” in the January issue of Institutional Real Estate – Americas and Real Assets Adviser magazines.)

I’m pulling for the Japanese because I’m looking forward to eating an amino-acid-rich breakfast and reading my daily quotient of news while being chauffeured on my daily commute to work.

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MikeCfinalwebMike Consol is editor of Real Assets Adviser.

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