Self-driving trucks take part in a driving test on a highway in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, in 2018. Photo: REUTERS file
tech

Japan faces urgent need to realize autonomous transportation

26 Comments
By Takuya Okamoto

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26 Comments
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No thank you, a vehicle that size, driving 20km/h on a Japanese expressway is going to cause massive traffic jams and accidents.

We have had "self-driving" buses being tested on roads down here, between the airport and a popular shopping area, they definitely cause traffic jams as they are travelling at least 10km/h UNDER the posted speed limit, and with the volume of traffic that we have down here, there are literally more registered vehicles in Okinawa than there are people, it's not a fun thing to experience!

If you can not keep up with the speed limit, at least, stay off the damn roads!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Just increase immigration- problem solved.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Japan should follow Germany and develop a better roll on roll off system that allows more freight to travel by train.

When driving at night andseeing the huge convoys of trucks I always wonder why more is not being transported on Japan's excellent train system.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

The truth is that they have been talking about this since the 1970s and have been working on it over the years. And while it may not be ready for prime time yet, so many developments related to autonomous driving have already been introduced, many that are quite useful.

Truthfully, I can understand the appeal of the idea in the context of this article. I mean, there really is going to be a problem in the future in rural Japan if solutions are not found to address the ageing population / depopulation and the provision of services in these rural communities.

And I would also suggest that readers research the strides that have been made in recent years and what industry experts are predicting will emerge in the next 10 years. Private companies around the world are literally investing billions of dollars every year in the field of autonomous vehicles and, just as in so many other areas, these investments will eventually produce technology / vehicles that are truly the stuff of science fiction.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is an opinion piece, not news.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I’d like to see autonomous trucks running the Tome highway between Tokyo and Osaka. I’ve driven that highway a few times and it’s a joke! There are groups of 5 ton pantec trucks racing the highway at 120kph+ weaving in and out if traffic like they are on a Grand Prix. It’s downright frightening at times. And, due to the passive police presence they just get faster and more reckless. Replacing these reckless idiots with autonomous vehicles will get them off the roads and make driving that gauntlet much safer and less stressful.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

How can you tell if a truck is a self-driving truck?

There are two human drivers in the front. Many of the companies testing out self-driving trucks have a safety driver behind the wheel and an engineer in the passenger seat monitoring the systems.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

America is working on a "last mile" style, where trucks drive automatically on a highway but descend directly to a depot, when human drivers would take control on surface streets to the destination. That would enable drivers to exchange, say, one 500KM drive for 20 1KM drives.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is definitely coming. Full autonomy may need 5G though for the improved latency and dependability.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Smarter timing of traffic lights, personal navigation systems that offer alternate routes to avoid traffic (based on real time data) and a campaign to make low commute time a part of the hiring process would do a lot to reduce the need for drivers by reducing the time necessary to get from A to B.

Also, expressway tolls need to be eliminated so people will use the highways more. And they need to remove the solid center dividers on them at points so that in the even of an accident on one side it can be converted to a two lane expressway.

Not a fan of driverless vehicles.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Autonomous driving, which the article above states as very suitable for Japan is spot on, however, there are a few hurdles to clear. One is my pet peeve, the Japanese "non-" address system. Most of the time, Google, Maps.app and Waze deal with it fairly well. But quite often, I'll input an address and arrive, but it's nowhere near the actual location. The chome/banchi system works on the principle of a space within a space and cars and people travel along lines and think of locations as points on a line. I can just see an automatic Amazon delivery van sitting in the middle of a field waiting for a parcel to be picked up!

Wouldn't it be so much easier to give streets names and houses numbers? The rest of the planet seems to work this way, why can't Japan?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

create dual citizenship

3-5 years until a citizen

no strings no little fingers

then filing jobs won't be a problem

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

of course you'd have to pay people though

1 ( +2 / -1 )

“How can you tell if a truck is a self-driving truck?”

That’s easy! It is doing the speed limit and staying in the lefthand lane, which is actually law in Japan. Believe it or not.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

How many people will be out of jobs in the future due to self driving vehicles?

It will be hundreds of thousands for sure...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Hokuren says 250 trucks a day operate at the Shari factory alone when the sugar beet harvesting season starts in October.

Why don't they just make tramway ?

In the past factory had they own railway until the main line to transport stuff they produced everywhere then it was charged on wagon pulled by horses. That would have been to much of a pain to have the horse pull things from the factory to everywhere. Since, they have fast truck, they just get ride of all their private railway but you can see these around. It is easy to go back in time and use the previous big sized system, instead of just wanting to kept the small sized system. We are talking about at least 250 trucks a day.

The railway has the inconvenient to take space and limit it for its own use but if you switch to tramway the road can still easily be crossed, used by other. And once the pass is created it can also serve as public transportation for people around and reduce car traffic, improve attractiveness of the area along it, ... . The fare paid by the local will help cover the cost of maintenance and as long as their staff use it too they will not have to pay any transportation cost. They can negotiate to have free rental of the road as long as they are responsible of maintenance and provide transportation service at competitive cost. So even economically, I think having a tramway is worth it in the long ride.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Driver shortages are getting worse year by year," says Kazuyuki Uchida, chairman of the Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives in Hokkaido.

Why ? Mr. Uchida, have you ever given it any thought, instead of waiting for autonomous driving, how about addressing the driver shortage. Would you forgo sleep and driver long hours for 250,000yen per month ? Your answer will obviously be No then why do you expect the contrary?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Trucks are fine but where they really need AI vehicles is in small towns to keep elderly people mobile without them having to drive. Buses in small towns are infrequent, taxis are expensive, and roads are quiet. A half dozen city-owned/contracted “silver” robotaxis subsidized to keep them cheap would do wonders for safety. My in-laws are not comfortable driving due to health issues but have few options.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wouldn't an ageing population, sparsely distributed, compounded with a low birthrate, argue against this sort of "innovation"? The population has been declining for 25 years and the decline is accelerating, most rapidly in rural areas like those mentioned. The cost of this is likely to be far higher than the eventual benefit.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"One is my pet peeve, the Japanese "non-" address system." There's this thing called GPS, now...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

expat

"One is my pet peeve, the Japanese "non-" address system." There's this thing called GPS, now...

Which Bertie addressed, in detail, in his original comment.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Wouldn't it be so much easier to give streets names and houses numbers? The rest of the planet seems to work this way, why can't Japan?

I'm not sure it would be easier in a densely backed city like Tokyo or Osaka where older buildings are constantly being demolished and new ones being built. European and American cities are fairly static in terms of re-zoning and construction but in Japan an older building can be demolished and 5 houses will sprout up on the subdivivided land, or vice versa. You'd inevitably end up with a confusing numbering system (which you now start to find in cities like London) where you have in-between house numbers like 21, 21A, 21B, 21C, or 22½ and so on. These are also confusing and often require a degree of local familiarity to find quickly, just like addresses in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

expat, as I wrote, in spite of GPS, the navigation software manages to make mistakes. Hard to believe, but true. I do a lot of driving and know this to my cost. In any case, it's illegal to even LOOK at a cell phone while driving. But there is no law against crawling along at 2kph trying to figure out where 2 chome ends and 3 chome begins! Autonomous transport should make this less of a problem, but I still think the address system needs sorting out.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan should follow Germany and develop a better roll on roll off system that allows more freight to travel by train.

exactly and to teach Japanese the actual rd rules in that you dont have to slow down and let everybody in on expressways, its the responsibility of those entering the express to wait for a gap before accelerating to enter.

When driving at night and seeing the huge convoys of trucks I always wonder why more is not being transported on Japan's excellent train system.

unfortunately speed is on the essences in the delivery business which is why most freight companies have big sort centers right next to expressways interchanges, moving by train means double even triple handling, and there just inst enough affordable land available near train stations to house big sort centers. what needs to be done is the use of more truck trailers which I notice more of nowdays, can move more goods for each driver and less fuel used for the weight carried. autonomous truck is the way to go when the technology is right youll get trucks traveling together all in the left lane not exceeding the speed speed limit, truck normally have to travel 10km less than the limit which they dont, making it safer for cars to pass in the right lane

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"...truck normally have to travel 10km less than the limit which they dont,"

This is not correct.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan mass deploying autonomous transportation makes it dependent on foreign technology like the 5G, because Japan is half a decade behind the US, Germany, and China in self-driving technology and must import technology.

Is this what Japan wants, yet another complete dependency on foreign technology?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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