• Kyodo

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Automakers rolled out their advanced driving technologies and IT-equipped vehicles for the opening of Japan’s major high-tech fair Tuesday.

More carmakers are joining electronics companies at the CEATEC Japan exhibition this year as vehicles increasingly employ advanced information technology.

Honda Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. are exhibiting their products for the first time, while Toyota Motor Corp. is taking part in the annual event for the second straight year.

A total of 587 companies and groups, including 163 from overseas, are displaying their products and technologies at the five-day exhibition at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba, organizers said.

There are around 2,340 booths but the number of exhibitors is down from 624 last year, according to the organizers.

Nissan Motor Co. is demonstrating its automated driving technology for the first time in Japan, using its Leaf electronic vehicle equipped with advanced driver assist systems.

Nissan has set up a special driving course at the venue with virtual representation of roads typically found in Japan, and it gave a live demonstration of automated driving made possible by artificial intelligence, which can predict other vehicles’ movements and choose the most appropriate driving action.

Nissan Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn tested the autonomous drive car at the CEATEC venue, and reaffirmed that the automaker plans to put self-driving cars on the market by 2020.

Ghosn said that 2020 “is going to be the latest because we are under pressure from a lot of competition.”

At the Honda Motor booth, President Shinichiro Ito pitched the automaker’s energy management system for homes and its household gas engine cogeneration system. The company’s demonstration of a system using electricity generated by a motorcycle to heat water in a giant kettle attracted visitors’ attention.

Toyota is exhibiting the prototype of the Toyota i-Road electric vehicle. The ultramini, single-passenger EV will be used in Toyota’s tests for urban transport systems based on car-sharing.

“Why are automakers here at CEATEC? With the introduction of IT and electric power, vehicles have now become running information terminals,” said Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association Chairman Akio Toyoda.

“With the evolution of IT, vehicles will also evolve into something that can provide more fun. The collaboration of electronics and automobiles is definitely worth noting down the road,” said Toyoda, who is president of Toyota.

Electronics-makers, which are facing an uphill battle amid intensifying global competition, are exhibiting a wide lineup of cutting-edge products, including handheld devices with advanced image quality and “wearable” terminals.

Among the main products on display from electronics-makers is Sharp Corp.’s next-generation display panel, which has been jointly developed with Qualcomm Inc. of the United States under a business and capital tie-up.

The energy-efficient Micro Electro Mechanical System Display for smartphones and tablet computers is being developed by integrating Sharp’s technology for advanced IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide) liquid crystal displays and technology called the micro electro-mechanical system, which is owned by Qualcomm.

NTT DoCoMo Inc. is pitching its wearable terminal, as companies such as Sony Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. of South Korea are also in the market for such devices.

NTT DoCoMo’s Intelligent Glasses allow users to access various data through a display on the frame. The terminal is equipped with facial recognition functionality enabling users to browse the profiles of people they see, but the company has no plans to put the device on the market in the immediate future.

Many electronics-makers are exhibiting smartphones and tablet computers as they try to win back market share lost to Apple Inc.’s iPhone, which is proving extremely popular in Japan.

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