Google’s self-driving cars have gone from being a quizzical project that only the geekiest of geeks cared about to a very real possible future. Of course, Google isn’t the only company making forays into automated transportation, so it’s hardly a surprise that Japanese companies are also working on such technology.

But where Google’s self-driving cars basically look like tiny adorable bugs, Japan’s Robot Taxi is looking to solve the various transportation issues facing Japan—both urban and rural—with one magic bullet. Will they be successful? We have no idea, but this touching commercial will definitely have you rooting for them!


Japan has never been shy about adopting robots or robotic technology, and that’s definitely one of the aspects of the country that has inspired people from William Gibson to some of your lowly RocketNews24 writers. Still, self-driving cars seem like they’re a few massive leaps ahead of the technology in something like SoftBank’s Sarcastic robot, Pepper.

▼ Sleeker than Google’s cars with none of the backtalk of HAL!


But that’s not stopping Robot Taxi from trying! In addition to unveiling one of their vehicles (pictured above) at ZMP Forum this August, they’ve released a commercial online this month showing just how their technology can help people living in areas facing severe depopulation.

▼ Right in the feels, Robot Taxi. Right in the feels.

So, aside from making us misty eyed, what is Robot Taxi trying to do? In the simplest terms, they’re trying to make commuting easier and more fun. Their goals are basically all the futuristic things you’ve imagined self-driving cars doing—going to pick riders up automatically, whisking people to their destination as quickly as possible, letting them sit back and relax without having to worry about the road. One significant characteristic of the taxis will be seeing them running around without anyone in the driver’s seat. Whether or not that’s actually a good idea, we’re not sure, but the company does say they want to make it so you can hail a taxi with your phone and it will come get you wherever you are.


One of their main visions for the service is helping elderly people or those who can’t drive themselves, particularly in areas where bus and train service has been discontinued or severely cut back. They’re also hoping Robot Taxis will make it easier for people from overseas to get around in Japan—which is probably why they’re hoping to have all this up and running by 2020, when the Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo.

▼ Anticipated timeline


Of course, this is all pretty tricky stuff, so we won’t hold it against them if it’s not actually possible to hail a robot taxi by the time the opening ceremony is held in 2020.

But if they can pull it off? Well, that would be worth braving the Olympic crowds for on its own! And it looks like road testing of the taxis will begin next year in “Robot Town” Sagami in Kanagawa Prefecture, where a variety of automated technologies are undergoing testing now, including robots that inspect infrastructure such as bridges, and others that help elderly people around their homes by themselves.

The future sure is exciting, isn’t it?

Sources: Robot Taxi, Kanagawa Prefectural GovernmentYouTube/RobotTaxi Channel via ITMedia
Images: Robot Taxi, YouTube/RobotTaxi Channel