Visually impaired Paralympian forced to withdraw after collision with self-driving bus in athletes’ village
Written by Hit Music Radio News on 28/08/2021
Toyota has temporarily suspended its autonomous buses in the Paralympics athletes’ village after one vehicle hit a visually impaired Paralympian at a pedestrian crossing.
Japanese athlete Aramitsu Kitazono was forced to withdraw from Saturday’s 81kg Judo category after the collision with the “e-Palette” vehicle left him with cuts and bruises.
Toyota temporarily suspended the service following the incident.
The vehicle had stopped at a T junction and was about to turn under manual control of the operator, who was using the vehicle’s joystick control, when the vehicle hit the athlete going at around 1 or 2 kilometres an hour, Toyota’s chief executive said.
In a YouTube video, Akio Toyoda apologised for “overconfidence” in autonomous cars and said he had offered to meet the athlete.
“A vehicle is stronger than a person, so I was obviously worried about how they were,” he said, answering questions about the incident.
“It shows that autonomous vehicles are not yet realistic for normal roads.”
Games officials had told him Kitazono was able to walk back to his residence after being treated at the medical centre. Coach Yoshiyasu Endo told the Japan Times his athlete was recovering well.
“He also wanted to take good care of himself. We feel regret, but I think he is the most disappointed,” Endo said.
Toyota had adapted the e-Palette, a fully autonomous battery-electric vehicle, especially for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, with large doors and electric ramps to allow quick boarding for large groups.
The Olympic sponsor had touted the vehicle as a “symbol of mobility that goes beyond cars”.
In a statement, the Japanese manufacturer expressed its “sincerest apologies” to Kitazono for the “unfortunate collision” and apologised “for any inconvenience caused to those who use our mobility vehicles in the Athletes’ Village”.
It confirmed it was cooperating with a local police probe to determine the cause of the accident, as well as conducting its own investigation.
Toyota promised to coordinate closely with the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to prevent any further accidents.
© Sky News 2020