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August 28, 2021

Toyota's Self-Driving e-Palette Struck A Pedestrian During The 2020 Paralympic Games

In what could be a major publicity blow against fully autonomous vehicles, a Toyota e-Palette struck and injured a Paralympian at the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Athletes’ Village.

The e-Palette, a fully autonomous battery-electric vehicle, was adapted specifically for use during the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, with large doors and electric ramps to allow groups of athletes to board quickly.

After the accident, Toyota Chief Executive Akio Toyoda publicly apologized for the incident and highlighted the challenge of operating a self-driving vehicle on normal roads.

Reports say that the e-Palette had stopped at a T junction and was about to turn under manual control of the operator, who was using the vehicle’s joystick control, when the vehicle hit the athlete going at around 1 or 2 km/h. The athlete, who is visually impaired, remained conscious and was taken to the athlete village medical center for treatment, and was able to walk back to their residence.

Subsequently, Toyota suspended all operations of the e-Palette and will cooperate with the police investigation into the incident to determine the cause of the accident. The carmaker will also conduct its own investigation into the cause of the accident, and will coordinate closely with the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to ensure that future incidents can be prevented.

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