Ministry puts the pedal down on autopilot driving system

Kyodo

The transport ministry has unveiled an interim report on an autopilot driving system aimed at cutting traffic jams and accidents on expressways, eyeing its introduction in the early 2020s.

“It is a pioneering effort by global standards and we want to promote it with a sense of speed,” Hiroshi Kajiyama, senior vice minister of the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry, said at an expert panel meeting.

The ministry anticipates cooperating with automakers in developing the system, which it is hoped will boost the competitiveness of the industry.

The report envisages cars switching to automatic driving mode just before entering an expressway and being guided to their planned exit.

Cars would need devices to control their distance from the vehicle in front and to maintain their position in the lane. Technology is also planned to give drivers road information such as about inclines and curves, traffic volume and accidents.

The ministry aims to operate the system on a single lane around 2016 and on a multilane expressway with the ability to let cars change lanes in the early 2020s.

The report also envisions further upgrades such as automated driving for getting on an expressway lane and moving through parts of expressways marked by frequent congestion.