TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed plans to loosen regulation on such innovative technologies as drones and self-driving cars Thursday, aiming to encourage commercialization.
Abe called these areas "promising fields that can balance safety and convenience" and positioned the Internet of Things as a growth area as well. Revised rules will be incorporated into the new growth strategies to be put together next summer.
Japan will let drones take packages to isolated areas within three years. Paul Misener, a vice president at Amazon.com, welcomed the move, reflecting the e-commerce titan's own plans for drone delivery. Amazon could bring the service to Japan, he told reporters after the meeting.
Highway road tests of self-driving cars will be allowed by 2017. The government aims to use unmanned buses and taxis during the 2020 Olympics to transport travelers between Narita Airport and the Tokyo waterfront, which will house stadiums and the Olympic Village.
The looser rules will have "a big impact," said Hisashi Taniguchi, CEO of ZMP, a Japanese company working on automated taxis.
But Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda took a more skeptical view of the government's hopes for robo-buses. "What Toyota is trying to do is just self-driving" cars, he said.