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A Self-Driving Bus Has Hit A Paralympian At The Tokyo Olympic Village

There are always consequences of using autonomous vehicles….

Earlier this week, a visually impaired Paralympian was hit by one of the self-driving shuttle buses around Tokyo Olympic Village which resulted in leg and head injuries. The autonomous bus was turning right at an intersection in the village when it hit the 30-year-old Japanese judoka, Aramitsu Kitazono, who was walking on the pedestrian crossing. Fortunately, the Paralympian didn’t sustain any serious injuries as the bus had stopped just moments before the accident after detecting a security guard nearby at the intersection. But sadly, he missed his match which was scheduled for Saturday.

After the incident, all operations of the autonomous shuttle were halted as the police investigated what actually went wrong. According to Agence France-Presse reports, there were two human operators stationed on the bus as per the norm in case something goes wrong and they have to take manual control of the bus. But it seems like they misjudged the situation which resulted in the machine taking the blame. As it turns out, the bus had detected Kitazono walking towards the street and had stopped as it was designed to do. But the operators didn’t realize Kitazono was visually impaired and assumed that he would stop once the bus was near which led to the head-on collision. What makes this a tricky situation to judge is that if the bus was still in autonomous driving mode or if the operators had took full manual control because if it’s the former, then there needs to be a thorough investigation into the bus’s autonomous system which could further complicate things. But if the operators were at fault, that would mean it was a one-time sort of thing.

In today’s world where technology is advancing at a rapid speed, it’ll still be some time before the machines can operate smoothly without causing any accidents. Till then, it’s our duty as human beings to make sure we can take control of the situation and avoid a catastrophe in the future.