Japan Drives Ahead With Self-Driving Car System For Tokyo

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The system could be in place in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with commercialisation planned for 2022

Japan is to begin testing a self-driving car programme this year, according to a government plan announced on Monday.

The government strategic review, which aims at driving economic growth by spurring investment in new technologies, would seek to put a self-driving car system on public roads in time for the 2020 Olympics.

The strategy was presented at a meeting chaired by Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, Reuters reported. It’s part of a larger package the government aims to compile by the end of this month.

Following the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan would seek to commercialise the self-driving car system as early as 2022.

Driving ahead

Japan has struggled to keep up with Chinese, European and US competitors in introducing autonomous vehicle initiatives.

The UK has placed a strong emphasis on autonomous cars, making it one of the key elements of the government’s Industrial Strategy last year, along with artificial intelligence and data.

Japan is also targeting AI development with plans to change regulations for universities.

The changes would make it easier for students to gain the multi-disciplinary degrees needed for AI work.

Japan’s SoftBank Group recently teamed up with US automaker General Motors on self-driving cars, with a $2.25 billion (£1.69bn) investment into GM Cruise Holdings, the firm’s autonomous technology unit.

Self-driving pilot programmes

Last week California regulators announced two pilot programmes that allow transport companies to offer rides to the public in self-driving vehicles.

Also in the US, Uber’s chief executive has said the firm is in talks with Alphabet’s autonomous driving unit Waymo, which could signal a possible breakthrough between the two firms, which have had an adversarial relationship  the past couple of years.

The move comes after Uber confirmed in March that it had temporarily suspended all its self-driving car tests after one of its vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona while in autonomous mode.

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