Mihama to experiment with driverless cart transportation

Mihama area in Chatan will be the first area in Okinawa to experiment with driverless vehicle transportation.

The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) selected Chatan Town as the location for experimenting and demonstrating driverless vehicle transportation. Small electric carts will be strolling along a 3-kilometer long path on the west coast that connects several hotels, Mihama American Village, and local beaches. The Chatan Municipal Office says, “We expect this experiment may lead to better access between neighborhood areas. We look forward to continuing to use the carts in the future.”

The experiment is scheduled to last two years while studying unmanned vehicle operation in real environment. The carts will move along a predetermined route guided by underground electric cables, the same way golf carts move on some golf courses. The carts have integrated sensors that recognize humans and other obstacles on the way.

The experiment starts with a manned operation for the safety, and then changes to driverless mode. AIST bears the costs of the experiment.

Chatan was chosen because local hotels in the area have experimented with manned carts to carry tourists in the area, and there is a demand for driverless carts for tourist sightseeing.

According to the municipal office, there will be two or three carts, each with seats for six passengers.