Japan’s Plan to Speed Self-Driving Cars
Earlier this month Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe got to participate in Japan’s first autonomous driving test on a public road. A Nissan Leaf, a Toyota Lexus, and a prototype Honda toured the vicinity of the National Diet (parliament). It was an important step in a plan that’s meant to boost the stature of Japanese technology and the country’s lackluster economy at the same time.
The scheme was hatched in June 2013 when Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism got together with domestic automakers to discuss advanced technologies. The outcome was a decision to spur development of automated driving systems. Hiroyuki Watanabe, a senior technical executive at Toyota, was appointed to direct the program.
The ministry’s effort is one of ten government programs—with a budget over US $400 million in 2014—meant to revitalize the stalled Japanese economy, which has lain stagnant for the past two decades.