TOKYO — When its newfangled e-Palette people mover hit a visually impaired judo wrestler in the athlete village for the 2020 Paralympic Games last month, Toyota proposed a rather ironic safety solution for a supposedly self-driving vehicle: more humans and more human oversight.
The boxcarlike shuttle buses — a public display of Toyota's interest in autonomous vehicles — each got a second safety operator. And the number of crossing guards directing traffic and protecting pedestrians was more than tripled along the e-Palette's route.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda also quickly apologized for the accident and just as quickly issued a reality check about the rudimentary state of today's autonomous driving technology. "I don't think it's at all realistic yet that self-driving cars can travel normally on ordinary roads," he said afterward.