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Yamaha rolling out autonomous vehicle test in Iwata City

Yamaha have today announced plans for a two year long trial of low-speed autonomous vehicles in Iwata City.

The trial, which begins next month, will aim to evaluate the functional issues with autonomous driving systems, and will also evaluate how current driving environments can be changed to better suit autonomous vehicles.

The vehicles used in the trial are public personal mobility vehicles, which, going by the picture, is a pretty long winded way of saying golf carts. There’s no word on the top speed of the vehicles, but most golf carts top out between 8-15mph. It’s interesting to note that the vehicles will still have steering wheels, although presumably they were left in place to save time and money. The carts won’t be allowed to travel through the entire city, and journeys will be limited to 4.2km.

“By offering land cars which move at a gentle pace – and which are capable of autonomous driving – as a last-mile mobility solution, we aim to expand the possibilities of low-speed mobility, and also contribute to addressing a variety of transport-related issues which are becoming apparent, such as maintaining public transportation in mountainous and depopulated regions and the advanced aging of drivers.” Mr. Yoshihiro Hidaka, President and Representative Director of Yamaha Motor.

Autonomous vehicles fascinate me, and I think Mr. Hidaka’s prediction of the future may be one that is more likely than the future of transport most of us often think of. When I think of future transport, be that autonomous vehicles or not, I revert back to the old-fashioned notion of actually owning the vehicle. Mr. Hidaka hints at a future where autonomous vehicles are small vehicles to be used by everyone, and it sounds brilliant. Imagine using an app on your phone to locate an autonomous vehicle that is already heading in your direction, then simply hailing it. A little like UberX, I guess, without a driver.

OK, so the autonomous golf cart isn’t a motorcycle, but imagine a future where human-driven cars aren’t allowed in city centres, and the autonomous golf cart is king. How much better would that be for us on two wheels?! Much better, but they’d probably ban human-driven bikes as well.

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