Japan has become the first country in the world to start operating an autonomous taxi on public roads, reports Nikkei Asian Review.
Created by robot maker ZMP and operated by taxi company Hinomaru Kotsu, the self-driving taxi has begun ferrying passengers along a 5.3 km route starting near Tokyo Station and ending in Roppongi entertainment district.
The taxi which commenced operations on Monday, makes only four return trips per day and reservations have to be made online.
According to the Nikkei, the trip costs $13.5 one way and passengers use a smartphone app to get their trip started.
The end goal for both companies is to begin full commercial operations in 2020, when the city hosts the Summer Olympics.
ZMP contends that autonomous vehicles could reduce the cost of taxi services and make them more widely available.
With the 2020 Olympics just round the corner, there could be an unprecedented demand for taxis thanks to the influx of tourists during the games.
This apart, ZMP opines that inexpensive taxis can also help deal with shortages of public transportation in remote areas.
According to the Nikkei, the taxi operates fully autonomously – turning, changing lanes and stopping on its own – though a driver sits behind the wheel in case of emergency.