SoftBank’s Robot Buses to Take Grandparents Home on Country Roads

If you had to invent the perfect place to roll out self-driving buses, Japan would be it. The country boasts an immaculate and extensive road network. Much of the aging population relies on public transport, especially in the countryside, to get around. And that customer base is shrinking; fewer passengers equals less fares. As a result, only a third of the country’s bus companies are profitable, forcing regional governments to step in to support them. That’s why SoftBank Group Corp. is building driverless buses, which the Tokyo-based company estimates can cut operating costs by half. Self-driving cars, like those being developed by Uber Technologies Inc., Google and automakers have to be smart enough to traverse unpredictable environments. Buses, on the other hand, follow predetermined routes and can get away with a lower level of machine intelligence. If the Japanese…


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