National | CHUBU CONNECTION

Collaboration aims to resolve senior transportation challenges

Chunichi Shimbun

Toyota Motor Corp. has started a three-year collaboration with Nagoya University, providing ¥360 million through its Toyota Mobility Foundation to facilitate transport for elderly residents.

A trial run was started in the Asuke district of the city of Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, this month to provide elderly citizens with a way to do grocery shopping and make medical visits by car-sharing or renting small electric vehicles.

Asuke has a population of 8,300 with 37 percent of people aged 65 and over — well above the 21 percent rate for Toyota city. It is located 15 km from the city center, making it a challenge to provide transportation for older residents.

In the first year, 100 households will be asked to participate in the project.

Each household will be given a computer tablet. Someone in need of transportation merely inputs the destination and time in the tablet. Any participant nearby who is heading in the same direction can provide a free lift.

Toyota’s Super-Compact Electric Vehicle COMS, which seats up to two, is also available for rent.

The number of EVs available for rent has yet to be decided.

Car-sharing between private individuals is expected to facilitate transportation for those living in less-populated areas, but this new system may affect bus and taxi operators.

Uber Technologies Inc., an American company that allows users to book transportation via smartphones, canceled its plans to set up a car-sharing service in Nanto, Toyama Prefecture, after receiving protests from the local taxi industry.

“We are not doing it for profit this time, and we have received approval from the taxi industry. We would like to find a way to work with the existing transport infrastructure,” said Takayuki Morikawa, a professor from Nagoya University who is leading the project.

The project is looking to utilize automated driving in its third year.

Toyota Mobility Foundation has worked in Thailand and Vietnam to ease traffic congestion and has provided grants to improve transportation in mountainous areas in Mimasaka, Okayama Prefecture. This project is its fourth undertaking.

“I hope the project will allow (elderly people) to move more freely from one place to another and spread it to other regions in three years’ time,” said Shigeru Hayakawa, an executive at Toyota Mobility Foundation.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published March 31.