Self-driving Cars to Get 1st Lanes on Japan’s Public Roads in FY24

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A self-driving car being developed by Chiba Prefecture-based company Turing. AI analyzes camera data and controls the steering and brakes.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry on Friday presented a proposal for setting up autonomous vehicle lanes on public roads in Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, in fiscal 2024. If realized, the lanes would be the first for self-driving vehicles on a public road in Japan.

The proposal came at a meeting of experts on digitizing infrastructure, in a draft interim report on the national development of “digital lifelines.”

The plan would target a two-kilometer stretch from JR Omika Station to around plants for Hitachi, Ltd. Cameras. Sensors to monitor the movement of pedestrians and vehicles will be installed on part of a route that is now used for a bus rapid transit system.

The ministry plans to establish autonomous driving lanes on the new Tomei Expressway between Surugawan/Numazu and Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture in fiscal 2024. It will also introduce such lanes on part of the six-lane section of the Tohoku Expressway as early as fiscal 2025.

As for drone flight routes, which the ministry plans to set up throughout the country, it added the area along the Tenryu River system in Hamamatsu to already announced plans for the Chichibu area in Saitama Prefecture.

The ministry also presented a policy for its plan to obtain 3D data on infrastructure such as for electricity, gas, water and sewage. The project, designed to help prepare for large-scale disasters, will be started in Saitama and Hachioji in western Tokyo, according to the policy.

Digitizing infrastructure is part of the government’s “Vision for a Digital Garden City Nation,” and it will compile a development plan with specific measures by the end of the fiscal year.