Japan begins test self-driving of shuttle service on public road


A self-driving vehicle runs along rice fields in Tochigi city on Sept. 2

TOCHIGI, Sept. 2 ─ Japan’s transport ministry has tested an autonomous bus on public roads in Tochigi city.

The ministry will conduct similar testing in 12 other rural areas this year, with a view to deploying self-driving shuttle services by 2020.

With a rapidly ageing and shrinking population in Japan, more municipalities have given up offering public transport services, particularly in mountainous areas.

This is why self-driving vehicles are expected to improve transportation access for underserved communities, transforming the way people, goods and services move from one place to another.

Transport Minister Keiichi Ishii attended a test-ride event in Tochigi city on Sept. 2, and said: “Through automated driving, we want to develop a business model that truly satisfies the needs of each community.”

During a test ride, the autonomous bus with six seats runs from a municipal government building to a community.

The test bus has neither driver nor steeling wheel. Customers on the bus press a bottom for departure and it runs at a speed of 10 km per hour.

The transport ministry plans self-driving shuttle buses to carry people as well as agriculture products for markets.

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