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Japan's first 'regulatory sandboxes' could open next spring

Suspending rules in selected zones aims to free innovators and entrepreneurs

Residents of Semboku in Akita Prefecture test out a self-driving bus run by web operator DeNA.

TOKYO -- Japan is looking to create so-called regulatory sandboxes in three locales as soon as next spring to test technologies such as self-driving cars and long-range drones, piloting rules changes that could then go nationwide.

Labeling a city a regulatory sandbox would suspend many regulations there for a certain period, including rules against fully automated vehicles and drones that venture out of their operator's sight. The government hopes this freedom will spark the development of new technologies and businesses that national lawmakers cannot anticipate, and let officials work out issues such as safety at the local level before innovations are adopted nationally.

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