Autonomous Driving Could Get ¥2.7 Billion Boost from Japanese Govt

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A self-driving electric cart in the town of Eiheiji, Fukui Prefecture

The government is considering earmarking ¥2.7 billion in its fiscal 2023 supplementary budget to support tech development for so-called Level 4 autonomous driving, or fully automated driving under certain conditions.

Autonomous driving on public roads got the green light in April, and Japan is rushing to roll out driverless cabs and trucks, which have already been introduced overseas.

The government will publicly solicit companies in need of financial aid, in a bid to boost vehicle manufacturers and startups developing self-driving systems.

Level 4 autonomous driving has begun in a town in Fukui Prefecture, where driverless electric carts run on paths otherwise for pedestrians and cyclists. The government wants to encourage use of the technology on general roads and toll roads. As a first step, an automated driving lane will be introduced in fiscal 2024 on the Shin-Tomei Expressway between Suruga Bay-Numazu and Hamamatsu interchanges.

Self-driving is classified into five levels depending on the level of driver involvement, with Level 5 indicating full automation in all environments. Driverless transportation services are expected to help solve the so-called 2024 logistics problem, or an anticipated shortage of truck drivers.