Japan Set to Realize Automated Driving in Early 2020s

Jun 28, 2012
Naoshige Shimizu, Nikkei Automotive Technology
The "1st Discussion on Autopilot Systems"
The "1st Discussion on Autopilot Systems"
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Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) had a discussion in the aim of the practical use of automated driving technologies in Japan June 27, 2012.

MLIT plans to clarify the issues related to automated driving and compile an interim report by March 2013. This is the first time in the world that a ministry or an equivalent government organization has started to seriously consider the introduction of automated driving, MLIT said.

On the same day, MLIT organized the "1st Discussion on Autopilot Systems." In a report that the ministry published in March 2012, it said that it aimed to put automated driving into practical use in the early 2020s. And the discussion took place based on the report. The ministry plans to have a discussion on this issue bimonthly.

The organizers of this project are the Road Bureau and Road Transport Bureau of MLIT. The participants of the project are Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co Ltd, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd, Honda Motor Co Ltd, Mazda Motor Corp, Syougo Tsugawa and Kyouichi Tsushima (parliamentary secretaries for Land, Infrastructure and Transport). Yasuo Asakura, professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, became the chair.

For the discussion, MLIT mentioned some issues. Among them, the determination of responsibility in the case of an accident will probably be a major issue. Currently, the responsibility of an accident lies with the driver in principle based on the concept of "driver sovereignty." However, in automated driving, it is difficult to consider the person in the driver's seat as a driver, resulting in a confusion of responsibilities. Even so, if such a responsibility falled on an automaker, no one would release an automated car.

Even though the discussion has just started, one of the ideas that MLIT proposed is that an operation company undertakes the operation of a vehicle for a certain period of time or a certain distance. To use this service, the owner of a car makes a contract with the operation company and pays a fee. If an accident occurs in automated driving, the operation company will take the responsibility for it. As a result, neither the automaker nor the driver has to shoulder responsibility in the case of an accident, prompting the use of automated cars.

Also, as for the place where automated driving will be first realized , MLIT considers making a special lane for automated cars on an expressway.