In the year 2020, Japan will host the Summer Olympic games. Aside from the athletes and competition, Japan largest automaker, Toyota, will also be displaying their next-generation self-driving technology and vehicles at the grand sporting event.
Executives of Toyota have deemed the Odaiba waterfront area, where most Olympic venues will be held, as an ideal location for autonomous demonstrations. Compared to the rest of Tokyo which has narrow, winding roads, Odaiba features mostly wide, straight roads, less intersections and lighter traffic. With the Olympic games being attended to by people from all over the world, Toyota also sees it as a way of raising public awareness on self-driving cars.
Unlike other automakers, Ken Koibuchi, Toyota's executive general manager in charge of autonomous driving, prefers not to use the term 'autonomous' as it could instill a false sense of confidence to driver. Instead, the automaker prefers to use the term 'automated', and evokes the idea of cars being partners for human drivers rather replacing them, called 'Mobility Teammate Concept.'
However, Kobuchi states that there are still a lot of major technical issues that need to be addressed before Toyota can begin deploying self-driving cars, such as lidar sensors and laser scanners. The automaker does however, expect it to be used on vehicles in the near future.
Along with the technical issues, the Japanese government is also coordinating with the industry to map the country's roads. However, only a small portion has of roads and highways have been digitalize so far. According to Kobuchi, most major highways will be mapped in time for the 2020 Olympics, but city streets is a different matter.