Automated buses to be tested in Okinawa
The Cabinet Office announced Tuesday a plan to start an experimental driverless bus route on Okinawa. The experiment is scheduled to begin within fiscal year 2016 that ends Mar. 31, 2017.
According to the Cabinet Office announcement, the specific aim is to build a system of public transportation that is useful for aged and handicapped people in the future.
Verification tests of automated operation of vehicles are a part of the “Strategic Innovation Program” (SIP) of the government. The plans call for conducting large-scale verification tests in areas such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressways and local roads, and one of the proposed tests would be introducing an automated bus service to Okinawa.
The verification tests of public buses will include driving the bus on bus stops for handicapped and aged people who use wheelchairs the way that enables them to get on and off the bus easily. Other goals are better convenience and faster transportation. The plans include providing route information using portable terminals to verify the effect and usability of automated buses for potential passengers.
According to the Cabinet Office, discussions with Okinawa Prefecture will be held before commencing the tests about details of possible routes in Okinawa that will be designed within fiscal 2016. Funds for the experiment will be included in the national budget for the next year.
Yosuke Tsuruho, the Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, said, “The constraints of transportation is a big focus in Japan. The needs to improve it are incalculable.”