ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronTitle ChevronIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinIcon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailPositive ArrowIcon PrintIcon Twitter
Technology

Japan lays groundwork for 'level 4' autonomous driving

Unmanned public transportation a potential lifeline for remote communities

A town in Fukui Prefecture tested Level 3 self-driving vehicles in March. (Photo by Eiki Sato)

TOKYO -- Japan's transportation ministry plans to introduce stricter safety requirements for autonomous vehicles, paving the way for buses and other public transportation that can operate without human drivers in aging, rural communities. 

Japan is looking to level 4 automation, which does not require human control and may operate without a wheel or pedals, to provide a mobility solution to remote regions, where transit services are chronically hemorrhaging red ink.

Since level 4 vehicles would need to operate autonomously even in bad weather or in emergency situations, higher safety standards are necessary. The current standards cover only up to Level 3, which is premised on humans taking over driving in emergencies. 

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism aims to require more sophisticated controls for such vehicles, such as the ability to safely and autonomously pull over when ambulances are near.

The plan is to upgrade the safety requirements to coincide with an amendment to Japan's Road Traffic Act planned by fiscal 2022, which would allow remotely monitored autonomous vehicles to operate within certain regions.

In March, the town of Eiheiji in Fukui Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan coast, became the first municipality in Japan to launch a Level 3 transportation service, where a driver remotely oversees three vehicles transporting tourists. 

The transportation ministry also tested autonomous buses at five locations, including the city of Yokohama. 

The government aims to provide Level 4 transportation services at 40 locations nationwide by 2025, and over 100 locations by 2030.

Level 4 technology is not expected to become widespread in Japan's passenger cars until about 2025. 

Sponsored Content

About Sponsored Content This content was commissioned by Nikkei's Global Business Bureau.

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this monthThis is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia;
the most dynamic market in the world.

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia

Get trusted insights from experts within Asia itself.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 1 month for $0.99

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this month

This is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia; the most
dynamic market in the world
.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 3 months for $9

Offer ends October 31st

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers and subscribe

Your full access to Nikkei Asia has expired

You need a subscription to:

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers
NAR on print phone, device, and tablet media

Nikkei Asian Review, now known as Nikkei Asia, will be the voice of the Asian Century.

Celebrate our next chapter
Free access for everyone - Sep. 30

Find out more