NPA draft rules driverless vehicles on public roads

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NPA draft rules driverless vehicles on public roads

The National Police Agency has drafted legal conditions on when and how an advanced type of driverless vehicle can operate on public roads.

The NPA's draft revision of the Road Traffic Law released on December 23 would allow for operations of Level 4 automobiles on the five-level scale for automatic driving technology.

The agency plans to submit a revision proposal to the ordinary Diet session on January 17 after examining its details.

The government plans to use buses and other passenger-carrying vehicles for driverless transport services.

According to the NPA s draft, operators of such services will be obliged to remotely monitor their vehicles and immediately dispatch personnel to the scene in case of accidents.

The government wants to have Level 4 vehicles running in limited regions in fiscal 2022, and increase the number of locations to more than 40 by fiscal 2025 and to more than 100 by 2030.

At the earliest, trucks at Level 4 are expected to run on expressways in 2025.

Driverless transport services have been introduced across Japan using Level 3 vehicles, which require direct human involvement in case of emergencies.

In late March, the Eiheiji town government in Fukui Prefecture started operating self-driving electric vehicles at 20 minute intervals during the daytimes on weekends and national holidays.

The EVs can carry up to six passengers, including sightseers and elderly residents, at a maximum speed of 12 kph along a 10 minute, 2 kilometer route.

After staff members start the vehicles, the automated system takes over the operations.

The cars' bodies have sensors and cameras that can issue warnings and slow down when nearby pedestrians are detected.

A staff member is stationed in a nearby office to monitor the three EVs running in rotation. There have been no emergency situations requiring human intervention, according to the town.

Emergency situations will not be handled without personnel, so the EVs autonomous level will be raised to 4 by the end of fiscal 2022.

The city has high expectations for self-operating technology because of the difficulties in hiring drivers in underpopulated areas with a decreasing number of passengers.

Toru Yamamura, a senior official in the policy planning division, said labor reduction is essential to maintain public transportation. We will take advantage of autonomous driving technology to support people's means of transport.