Japan’s Robot Taxi aims to forge partnerships with carmakers to develop a driverless taxi service in time for the 2020 Olympics, the technology company said, holding its first tests on public roads and joining a global race to develop self-driving cars.

The joint venture between gaming software maker DeNA Co and robotics developer ZMP has set the 2020 Games in Tokyo as a target to develop software to operate driverless cars and an online service to ferry athletes and tourists between Olympic venues and the city’s transport hubs.

On Monday, it launched an initial 10-day field test in which selected residents of Fujisawa, around 45 km (28 miles) south of Tokyo, can summon a Robot Taxi online or from their smartphones, to take them to a local supermarket and back home.

The test uses Toyota Motor Corp Estima minivans equipped with its “Robovision” stereo camera and data processing system, although the company has said that it is open to working with all carmakers to supply vehicles.

Robot Taxi plans to take on Japan’s famously immaculate cabs in urban centres and remote, rural towns where public transport for elderly residents is limited. The company plans to focus on systems development rather than building vehicles from scratch.

The world’s largest automakers are competing with technology firms to create self-driving and driverless cars, with companies from Google to Toyota investing heavily in developing both hardware and software.