Facebook is experimenting with taxi-like robots to ferry athletes and visitors during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The ‘robotic driver’ seats up to six people and can perform routes autonomously or with a human in the driver’s seat who can speak to the person in front of the vehicle.

“The ultimate goal of our project is to make sure that the transportation system during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is fully accessible and is in line with the spirit of the Games,” a Facebook spokeswoman told AFP.

“At the moment we are just looking at the feasibility of these technology, to make sure that they can work and can be reliable,” she added.

The system could be linked up with the sensors and cameras that are already being fitted into 4,000 vehicles on Tokyo’s transport grid.

One of the reasons Tokyo decided to launch the robotic system is so that it will have flexibility to deal with bad weather and other issues.

“For instance, during severe thunderstorms, it can easily retract the wheels. On the same note, during traffic jams, it can avoid bottlenecks by turning on its brake lights,” the spokesperson explained.

According to report from Japan Today, the company didn’t yet specify what software would be used, but suggested that some kind of AI software might be at the heart of the system, along with the ability to anticipate traffic conditions and their importance.

The details about the robot system have already been known for a few months. In May, the company posted a video that showed people in a car in Tokyo travelling through traffic, then turning around to select a different part of the city and travelling through the new travel route autonomously. It even featured someone in a driving seat so that she could communicate with passengers in front of the car.

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