Toyota to restart self-driving Olympic village vehicles with more safety staff

Japan Times -- Aug 31
Toyota Motor Corp. said on Monday it would resume operations of its self-driving e-Palette pods at the athletes village for the Tokyo Paralympics with greater operator control and more safety staff to ensure they do not hit any more people.

The e-Palettes were halted after one of the vehicles collided with and injured a visually impaired Japanese athlete at a junction last week, prompting an apology from Toyota Chief Executive Akio Toyoda.

“The vehicle’s sensor detected the pedestrian crossing and activated the automatic brake, and the operator also activated the emergency brake. The vehicle and pedestrians, however, came into contact before it came to a complete halt,” Toyota said in a statement Monday.

Aramitsu Kitazono was not seriously injured in the incident, but had to pull out of the judo event on Saturday because of cuts and bruises, further embarrassing the company, which along with other global automakers is trying to develop autonomous vehicles that can operate safely on public roads.

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