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Japan Road Tests Self-Driving Cars to Keep Aging Motorists Mobile


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A driverless Toyota Prius has been navigating the winding seaside roads of Suzu, Japan.

The Japanese government is hoping to speed the development of autonomous driving so driverless vehicles could be available to transport visitors and athletes during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Credit: Kanazawa University

Japan's automakers aim to meet the challenge of aging drivers with few transportation options by testing self-driving vehicles on roads.

The Japanese government is allocating about $16.3 million annually to develop maps and other technologies needed for automated driving so in four years Japan could offer driverless vehicles to transport visitors and athletes to and from venues at the 2020 Olympics. Nissan Motor and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn says government support could ease regulatory challenges and enable Japan to commercialize autonomous cars ahead of everyone else.

Kanazawa University has developed a prototype self-driving Toyota Prius, using the city of Suzu's roads as a testbed. Suzu official Naoyuki Kaneda envisions autonomous technology finding use in buses or taxis.

However, researchers and carmakers must address the high cost of the gear needed to make cars autonomous, which can include radar, cameras, laser-range finders, and computer processors.

Refining how the vehicles can operate in inclement weather with poor visibility is another challenge.

Toyota recently invested $1 billion in an artificial intelligence operation based in Silicon Valley to aid its driverless car effort.

From The Wall Street Journal
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