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Japan aims to show Autonomous Vehicles off at 2020 Summer Olympics

20 Nov 17
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The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be a showcase for autonomous vehicles if Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gets his wish. He needs fleets of self-driving taxis, trucks, buses and personal vehicles on Tokyo streets, even ferrying the athletes, from the time the world descends on thenbsp;city.

With an aging population and an economy bouncing in and out of recession, Abe sees the Olympics as an opportunity to encourage Japanese companies to devote andnbsp;innovate.

The absence of legal framework for self-driving cars remains a barrier for their roll-out in Canada and the rest of the world, but Abe’s government is working on guidelines to clear a legal course. Tokyo aims to get the required legislation .

At the Tokyo Motor Show last month, Lexus introduced a — known as LS — which will be available in 2020. The car’s “Highway Teammate” system, which has been in testing on public roads in Japan since 2015, allows “automatic driving on highways from on-ramp all the way through the off-ramp,” and can perform manoeuvres like merging on the street, changing lanes and overtaking without motorist help. However, it is not clear if such a system would require responsibility in the driver (as at a Society of Automotive Engineers Level-3 autonomous vehicle) or when the machine would behave just as an assistant to an individual driver (SAEnbsp;Level-2).

“Level-3 … is in limbo,” said Kiyotaka Ise, chief safety officer and head of research and development for Toyota. “Maybe Level-4 will make better sense. We are concurrently developing alternatives for bothnbsp;degrees.”

In Level-4, the human does not have to be prepared to resume control. Ise mentioned the car-to-driver handover time and human-machine port as the biggest technical hurdles. For the Olympics, ” he said, Toyota would like to have prototype vehicles using its “Urban Teammate” system on the street. These vehicles would provide automated driving not only on highways but in cities,nbsp;also.

Nissan is also targeting 2020 for the development of its autonomous technologies. The business intends to have cars on the road that provide driver-supervised automation in cities and in intersections, as Globe Drive has .

Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s CEO, told reporters in Tokyo that the Japanese government appears to be the most willing to adopt autonomous driving technology. “The technology will be mass-marketed when authorities want it,” he said. “Our job is to ensure that the technology is ready. So, I am telling you, it’ll be prepared bynbsp;2020.”

For 2020, Ghosn is ambitiously planning to get autonomous city driving accessible. Before then, he said, will also have autonomous highway driving and traffic jam help.

Toyota is one of the principal international sponsors of the 2020 Olympics, and Ghosn has been vocal about his aspirations for Nissan. By comparison, Honda has not made much of a splash in the autonomous automobile world. The business is targeting 2020 to get a car that could take control in restricted highway conditions (Level-3) and 2025 because of its .

Subaru was among the first companies to provide advanced driver-assistance using its EyeSight stereo-camera system. In Japan, Subaru offers vehicles with Tesla-like highway-only autopilot functionality. While the company has not announced anything special for the Olympics, Subaru’s Viziv concept from the Tokyo Motor Show is thought to preview the next development of EyeSight. For 2020, the machine will acquire radar and precise digital maps, which Subaru claims will allow for automatic lane-changes in certainnbsp;states.

It’s important to not forget that all the new semi-autonomous technology being talked about are confined to certain environments — certain geo-fenced zones or highways-only or intersections-only — and specific (good) weather. Consumer vehicles without steering wheels are a ways off. We are talking baby stepsnbsp;here.

“2020 is just 3 years down the road; it is not too long,” said Toru Saito, president of Audi Japan. “I don’t think we are going to make a quantum jump to autonomous driving [bynbsp;then].”

Realistically, he said, there’ll be Level-3 vehicles on the street; Audi already has that technology in its A8 sedan. The only catch is Level-3 systems are not legal; not yet, anyhow. “I believe they’re going to change the law to adapt autonomous driving by 2020,” said Saito. “That is the government’s goal.”

To encourage development of autonomous vehicles, the Japanese government is working to make detailed digital maps of the country’s road network, which it expects to have finished for thenbsp;Games.

The last time Japan hosted the Olympics, in 1964, the Games spurred the nation forward both socially and economically. That year, the Olympics saw the introduction of Japan’s now-famous Shinkansen bullet train. Legalizing Level-3 cars might be the real breakthrough fornbsp;2020.

“The one thing to learn about Japan is that, if it sets its mind on something, it is going to do it,” said Stephen Beatty, vice-president of Toyota Canada. “Individuals align to those big objectives. If this were North America … the jury would be out on our capacity to handle it. But I never, ever, underestimate Japan’s ability to establish targets and hitnbsp;the”

Car companies are proficient at producing hype without necessarily having the ability to follow through. This time, however, they have the support of Japan’s government, and the world will benbsp;viewing.

The author was a guest of Audi at the Tokyo Motor Show. Content wasn’t subject tonbsp;acceptance.

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Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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