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2017.01.10 KDDI begins “automatic translation” taxi trial
In November 2015, Japanese telecommunications company KDDI Corporation (KDDI) started trialing automatic translation systems in taxis to translate conversations between the taxi user and taxi driver. From December 20 this year, KDDI began a new trial with taxis in Tokyo. The trial will continue to March 2017 and involve translation between Japanese and three other languages: English, Chinese, and Korean.

These trials are being conducted as part of the Global Communication Plan of the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The number of visitors to Japan has increased in recent years, and many among them use taxis for getting around. There have been reports of problems arising between taxi drivers and foreign taxi users because of difficulties in communication, and such cases have made apparent a need for improvement in this area.

The “automatic translation” taxi being trialed at this time is fitted with a multi-lingual speech translation system that was built by KDDI applying technology developed by Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology. In the previous trial which ran from November 2015 to March 2016, where the translation system was tested with a sightseeing taxi company in Tottori prefecture, 60 percent of those who responded to a survey about their experience replied favorably.

While there is positive feedback on the internet regarding the automatic translation taxis, there have also been other views, such as, “As long as the directions are understood, taxi users and taxi drivers don’t need to talk to each other in a taxi.” KDDI is expected to continue making further improvements to automatic translation taxis based on the results of the trial in Tokyo.

For more information, please refer to the following websites: