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Economy

First self-driving car hub in Japan set for Tokyo's Shinagawa

Downtown location to offer access to maglev train and Haneda

TOKYO -- Japan's transport ministry envisions building the country's first hub for automated vehicles in downtown Tokyo in conjunction with the 2027 start of service on a ultrahigh-speed train line.

Located in bayside Shinagawa, which also offers rail access to Haneda Airport, the hub would initially serve as a pickup and drop-off point for self-driving cars headed to hotels, stores and other local attractions.

Later on, the terminal would also offer self-driving buses to bustling areas like Shibuya shops or popular nightlife destination Roppongi. The tentative plans also call for a commercial facility to go with the hub.

The hub would be built over a roadway leading to Shinagawa Station, one end of a magnetic levitation train line that will zip passengers at speeds of up to 500 kmh from Tokyo to Nagoya.

The plans, to be completed by next April, could serve as a model for interconnected travel infrastructure nationwide.

The hub would be designed for vehicles equipped with level 4 self-driving technology -- the second-highest level, in which humans need not take the wheel in most conditions.

The government has set a target of launching level-4 automated transport services within limited areas by 2020, and expanding them to 100 locations countrywide by a decade later. The Shinagawa Station area is proposed as a testing ground for new transport technologies.

Railways operators Keikyu and East Japan Railway as well as Seibu Holdings real estate unit Seibu Properties will take part in consultations with the ministry on the hub project.

In other high-tech transport developments, Uber picked Japan as one of five locations it is considering for the commercial launch of its flying-taxi business. The world's first autonomous taxi to run on public roads started operating in central Tokyo last month.

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