Toyota resumes e-Palette services at Paralympic Games after collision

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Toyota has announced that the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has decided to resume operations of the company’s e-Palette autonomous vehicles within the Athletes’ Village. The mobility service was suspended in response to an incident last week when an e-Palette collided with a visually impaired pedestrian.

According to Toyota, the service involves three crucial elements: pedestrians, vehicles and infrastructure, including guides, which were involved in the incident. By analyzing the incident from the perspective of these three elements, together with the Organising Committee, Toyota says it has been able to implement additional safety measures.

According to Toyota’s analysis, the pedestrian was a visually impaired person who was walking alone. When the pedestrian tried to cross the intersection, they came into contact with a vehicle passing through the intersection.

When the vehicle entered the intersection to turn right, it detected a person in the intersection and stopped. After the operator confirmed that conditions were safe, they restarted the vehicle, moving again toward the intersection. The operator checked the situation around the intersection and manually started to decelerate. The vehicle’s sensor detected a pedestrian coming toward the intersection and activated the automatic brakes. The operator also applied the emergency brakes. However, a collision occurred before the vehicle managed to come to a complete stop.

At the time of the collision, there were only two guides at the intersection. Given that there were no traffic signals, and especially in a situation like the Paralympics where there is a diverse range of people, guide people were unable to check the movements of all pedestrians and vehicles moving in multiple directions. In addition, there was not a sufficient mechanism for coordination between guides and vehicle operators. As a result, the pedestrian entering the intersection was struck by the vehicle.

Based on a thorough verification of these facts, Toyota states that, together with the Organising Committee, it has determined that ensuring safety at an intersection without signals cannot be handled by pedestrians, operators or guides alone – all three parties must work together. As such, it has implemented several additional safety measures.

During an Athletes’ Team Leaders’ Meeting, the Organising Committee will reiterate the specifics of the walking environment in the Athletes’ Village and the rules for moving around in the village, and will do so at other opportunities as well.

To respond to the safety needs of the diverse range of people unique to the Paralympics, Toyota will increase the volume of the vehicles’ approach-warning sounds, improve the system for manual driving and educate operators.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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