An athlete with a visual impairment has been hit by an autonomous bus at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
The Paralympian was hit by a Toyota Motor Corp. self-driving bus which was running inside the athletes’ village, police reported.
The Japanese Paralympian, Aramitsu Kitazono, was subsequently left with injuries from the incident which have impacted his future in the Games.
The 30-year-old judoka was competing in the men’s 81-kilogram division, however, due to the crash, his coach has confirmed he will have to miss Saturday’s scheduled match, Kyodo News reported.
The bus had been in the athletes’ village, turning right at an intersection, when it hit the athlete. Kitazono was struck as he was walking over a pedestrian crossing at around 2:00pm on Thursday, police reported.
The autonomous (self-driving) buses, developed by Toyota Motor, had been running in the village around the clock. According to police, the e-Palette electric bus stopped just before the accident, due to its sensor having detected a security guard close to the intersection.
President of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, told an internet programme run by the automaker that the company was ‘very sorry that the accident has made people worried’.
Toyoda has since stated the collision occurred when the bus was trying to turn right at a T junction, reporting the vehicle had been moving at a speed of between one and two kilometres per hour.
Toyoda visited the junction himself and reviewed footage of the incident, admitting there had been ‘some overconfidence’ in autonomous driving.
Kitazono was left with bruises on his head and body as a result of the crash. The five passengers on board the bus at the time of the incident did not obtain any injuries. Neither did the two operators who made the bus move again shortly after it first stopped, according to police.
Kitazono’s coach said the athlete is now resting and eating without problems, while the organising committee reported the Paralympian had not suffered any external wounds.
Kitazono’s coach, Yoshiyasu Endo, said the athlete was feeling the ‘most disappointed’, and that others close to him felt ‘regret’. He noted how Kitazono had wanted to ‘take good care of himself’.
The visually impaired athlete had been in group B2 for his vision. In the Paralympics, athletes competing in judo are classified into three classes, from B1 representing total blindness to B3, low vision.
Due to the incident, the use of e-Palette vehicles in the village has subsequently been suspended, according to Toyota. The company is also said to be ‘fully cooperating’ with the police, who are continuing to investigate the cause of the accident.
We will conduct our own thorough investigation into the cause of the accident, and we will continue to coordinate closely with the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to ensure that we prevent any incidents from occurring in the future.
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, the world’s biggest sports event for athletes with disabilities, began on Tuesday, August 24, having been postponed for one year due to coronavirus.
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