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Toyota restarts self-driving shuttles after Paralympics crash with pedestrian

A Toyota E-Palette mobility pod struck a visually impaired person using a crosswalk. Now, the vehicles are back online with additional safety measures.

The mobility pod struck the person going about 1 mph.

Toyota

Toyota this weekend suspended all of its self-driving mobility pods operating around Tokyo following a crash with a visually impaired pedestrian. The incident occurred as Tokyo hosts the 2020 Paralympic games, of which Toyota is the headline sponsor.

The automaker said in a statement, "Firstly, 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. We would also like to apologize for any inconvenience caused to those who use our mobility vehicles in the Athletes' Village." The pedestrian is also an athlete who was set to compete at the games, the automaker said, though he was forced to withdraw from his sport due to minor injuries from the crash. The Toyota E-Palette mobility vehicle struck the person going about 1 mph.

As of Monday, the automaker issued an update saying the mobility vehicles are back online with beefed up safety staff. The automaker also increased the volume of the vehicle's warning sounds.

The automaker uses the mobility pods to shuttle athletes around the facilities, and these same vehicles were meant to play a larger role initially. Toyota previously wanted the public to climb aboard as Japan prepared to welcome fans and tourists from around the world for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games. The COVID-19 pandemic forced very different events, however.

In an additional statement, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda said this crash highlights the challenges autonomous cars still face, and may not be up for yet. He also offered some honest words, saying, "It shows that autonomous vehicles are not yet realistic for normal roads."

The automaker will cooperate with investigations and said it plans to open its own investigation into the matter.