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Tokyo airport deploys driverless shuttle buses in preparation for Olympics

Japan is recognized as one of the world’s leading pioneers when it comes to championing groundbreaking technologies - and it has just announced that it will deploy driverless buses on a trial basis at Tokyo Airport in preparation for the Olympic Games there next year.

It has been announced that six Japanese enterprises and the country’s national carrier have all agreed to jointly-collaborate on a 10-day experiment with an autonomous prototype minibus.

Officials directly responsible for overseeing the program allowed representatives from Japan’s media to briefly view the automated transportation in action – and it is currently being operated with a safety driver in the front seat.

The driver sat with his white-gloved hands hovering above the wheel, ready to take control if need be, but otherwise allowing the bus to wend the route on its own.

"Our hope is to be able to offer users autonomous buses by the Tokyo 2020 Olympics," said ANA project chief, Tadakatsu Yamaguchi.

The vehicle holds a maximum of 10 people and cruises along a route connecting two terminals at a speed of up to 30 KM (19 miles) per hour using GPS and magnetic markers on the road.

Project officials did not disclose details in relation to the cost of the system, or how many people they project will be eventually transported using the buses.

Japan is quietly confident the 2020 Games will provide them with the perfect platform to showcase their cutting edge tech projects in the country, but autonomous transport is also an important sector for a nation suffering labor shortages and a shrinking, ageing population.

"The decline in the population puts us at risk of no longer being able to carry out operations and that is why we are now pushing to introduce new autonomous mobility technologies so we can guarantee good operations with less staff.