The Japanese City of Fujisawa is giving 50 of its elderly residents the opportunity experience a ‘transport’ option of the future – robot taxis.

We’ve heard much of the Google self drive car project which could be boon for those with age or disability related limitations.

At the moment these vehicles are prototype vehicles,described as ‘cool’ by those who have been lucky enough to trial them. Google’s short video gives us some insight into the potential of this technology.

Other work is happening with less fanfare around the world on such ‘out of the box’ thinking using technology to solve some of the ‘problems’ in our communities.

‘Smart town’ of Fujisawa

The City of Fujisawa is implementing a ‘smart town’  through an EU funded reasearch project with a consortium of 11 partner companies (Panasonic, Mitsui, Accenture etc). The town will include 1,000 homes working from a low carbon, eco lifestyle approach to community and is a whole of community project or a ‘working lab’.

Driverless Taxi options for the elderly in a ‘smart town’

A key feature of the Fujisawa ‘smart town’ is the provision of a limited trial for 50 residents of these ‘robot taxis’. Residents will be able to access these taxis for trips within 3 km of their home. Initially the ‘drivers seat’ will need to be occupied by an attendant.

This will be first time that such technology will be used on public roads and with local residents.

A key approach taken in Fujisawa is the looking at issues from the ‘customers viewpoint’, listening to the “concerns and troubles faced by people in need of care”. Fujisawa is also developing ‘serviced housing’ for the elderly where services are available 24/7/365.

Panasonic has as a result “established a system with which to provide long-term one-stop services“.

Imagine the future for Australia

Imagine these options in the Australian environment where the car is the preferred method of transport and alternative transport options are limited or nonexistent.

Having options like this may go a long way to alleviate the personal angst when a driver’s license has to be relinquished.

From a safety perspective it might reduce the risk of accident and injury which is highest amongs the 75+ age group and put an end to negative discussions  in the media such as ‘Elderly drivers as dangerous as young hoons‘.

Question to you?

If there was one problem that needed fixing for the ageing and disabled in our community, that you could put to the ‘great minds’ in the world what would it be?

Further Reading

Japan’s Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town

A Japanese City is Innovating Transportation for the Elderly 

Panasonic – Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town