Toyota has ordered its e-Palette self-driving vehicles sidelined after a minor accident at the Olympic Village in Tokyo according Reuters. The Village is currently hosting the Paralympics and the low-speed accident injured a visually impaired athlete.
The low-speed accident occurred as the e-Palette was attempting to make a turn. The pedestrian was taken to a village medical center for treatment and was able to walk home afterward. Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda issued an apology and explanation via a YouTube video. From the Reuters report:
The vehicle had stopped at a T junction and was about to turn under manual control of the operator, who was using the vehicle’s joystick control, when the vehicle hit the athlete going at around 1 or 2 kilometres an hour, Toyoda said. He said Paralympic officials had told him that the athlete, who remained conscious, was taken to the athlete village medical centre for treatment and was able to walk back to their residence.
Toyota has had the e-Palette vehicles in use specifically for the Toyko games. The design of the vehicles with their loading ramps and sliding doors allows a large number of people to enter either by walking in or using a loading ramp.
Toyoda said the accident was an example of how difficult it is for autonomous vehicles to navigate regular roads, like those at the Olympic Village. The Paralympics is a challenge for the vehicles due to the “special circumstances of the village.” Although the description of the crash says the vehicle was under manual control, Toyoda says the accident shows “that autonomous vehicles are not yet realistic for normal roads.”
Toyota says its working with Olympic officials to prevent any more accidents and local authorities to investigate the crash.