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Japan plans test site for self-driving cars

TOKYO -- A huge testing ground for autonomous vehicles will be created as part of government efforts to help Japanese companies develop next-generation automobiles.

     The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to set up test tracks on a roughly 150,000-sq.-meter site for self-driving cars in fiscal 2016, a policy paper released Wednesday shows. The site will be created at the Japan Automobile Research Institute in Ibaraki Prefecture, in the area known as Tsukuba Science City.

     The grounds, complete with mock-up buildings and roads, will be equipped with devices to disrupt radio communications and create other adverse conditions to test vehicles. The ministry aims to ask for roughly 3.4 billion yen ($30 million) for the project in the fiscal 2016 budget. The site is expected to become fully operational in fiscal 2017.

     In a separate paper released Wednesday, the ministry urged major players in the domestic automobile and autoparts industries to work together to streamline the development of self-driving vehicles, devising technological standards and clearing legal and regulatory obstacles.

     The ministry also unveiled a road map for promoting electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles Wednesday, setting a goal of boosting cumulative sales to 1 million units by 2020 from about 140,000 currently. To help achieve the goal, the ministry also created a target of setting up 20,000 charging stations by that year.


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