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.