Japan Wants a Lot More Autonomous Cars—and Soon

By: Bridget Clerkin June 5, 2018
Japanese leaders want 30% of cars in the country to be self-driving by 2030.

Japan is well-known for a train system that runs better than clockwork. But now the country wants to bring that famous efficiency from the rails to the roads.

Leaders in the Asian nation recently introduced a plan to launch autonomous transportation services in 100 locations across the country by 2030.

The idea was announced with a twin goal of having self-driving cars account for 30% of new auto sales in Japan by that time.

The autonomous cars will be kept running on a perpetual loop, except in case of emergencies, according to the new plan. An initial installation of the self-driving service will launch in limited regions by 2020.

Intended to help Japan keep pace with self-driving initiatives in Europe and America, the concepts are part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s national growth strategy, which was announced earlier this month.

The self-driving program, specifically, was earmarked as a path for “strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth.”

Still, the country must hit a few important mile markers before it can begin driving forward with the autonomous plan.

Japan still follows international transportation rules dictated by the 1949 Geneva road traffic convention. Those did not account for any type of self-driving technology. The government plans to update those rules by the end of 2020 to pave the way for new autonomous driving laws.

The country will also have to adjust its national car insurance policies for the influx of new self-driving machines. Government officials have already introduced a plan dictating liability in the case of autonomous accidents. (Vehicle owners will be held responsible for any incidents.) And insurance providers across Japan are gearing up to provide such coverage by 2020.

But cars aren’t the only aspect of transportation to get the computerized treatment in Japan. Leaders are also planning to use new robots and sensors to check up on its aging infrastructure, creating a truly new-age path to the future.

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