A self-driving Toyota vehicle was barely moving, but it still managed to collide with a visually-impaired athlete at the Paralympic Games, raising potential concerns about the limitations of autonomous driving technology.
Toyota’s CEO apologized after one of the company’s self-driving vehicles hit the athlete while driving at 1 to 2 kilometers per hour around the Olympic Village in Tokyo.
“It shows that autonomous vehicles are not yet realistic for normal roads,” CEO Akio Toyoda said in Japanese.
The company halted the use of the vehicles at the Paralympics amid an investigation of the incident by the police and the company.
Toyota has been providing a specially-designed version of its battery-powered, automated “e-Palette” vehicles to transport athletes and staff during the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which began earlier this week.
Toyota worked with Paralympic athletes to develop the vehicles, which include “handrails and seats that are easy to use regardless of height” and electric ramps for riders in wheelchairs, the company said in a press release about the cars.
It also said the automated vehicles were designed to move at low speeds to increase safety, but that didn’t help Japanese Paralympic judo athlete Arimitsu Kitazono.
“A vehicle is stronger than a person, so I was obviously worried about how they were,” Toyoda said.
The athlete hurt his head and legs and was treated inside the athlete’s village. Nikkei Asia reported that Kitazono’s coach said he will miss the men’s judo match, which he was scheduled to compete in Saturday.
“We would like to express our sincerest apologies to the individual that was injured due to this unfortunate collision and we wish them a speedy recovery,” Toyota said in a statement.
“We would also like to apologize for any inconvenience caused to those who use our mobility vehicles in the Athletes’ Village.”