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Japan puts self-driving transit buses to the test next year

Government taps automation tech to address driver shortage

A woman uses a self-driving bus during a trial in Japan's Tochigi Prefecture.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan will start field trials for self-driving buses next year, as the government aims to ease the shortage of drivers in the public transportation system.

The pilot program, starting as soon as April 2020, will focus on transit buses with fixed routes. The partially automated system will help the driver maintain proper spacing with other vehicles and stay in the correct lane. A Japanese test using higher-level automation, in which the system drives the bus except for emergencies, could begin as early as fiscal 2021 pending legislation.

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