National

Self-driving vehicle tests won't need permission to use public roads, say NPA guidelines

JIJI

Japan will not impose time and place restrictions on autonomous driving tests on public roads, according to draft guidelines released by the National Police Agency last week.

Those hoping to experiment using self-driving cars will be allowed to do so without obtaining permission to use public roads as long as they comply with rules such as having a driver and passenger in the car. In some U.S. states, autonomous driving tests require permission.

The NPA will finalize the guidelines after seeking public feedback until May 7.

The government regards autonomous driving as a key item in its growth strategy, aiming to put self-driving cars into practical use before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

As the industry is expanding, the NPA has received many inquiries about what permission is needed for self-driving car tests.

Clarifying the guidelines is seen as helping more venture companies enter into the autonomous driving business and support the development of related technologies.

Under the guidelines, those planning to test autonomous driving vehicles are urged to conduct driving tests at experimental facilities before moving on to public roads.

Public road tests should be conducted in stages, starting with places that have few pedestrians, the guidelines said.

Also, a passenger is required inside the car along with the driver, while partner vehicles should accompany the car with a sign affixed to that car’s body informing other motorists of the tests.

In addition, the guidelines call for having drivers confirm in writing that they are responsible for any accident. The experimental cars must also sound warnings when they shift to autonomous driving.

Also requested are cybersecurity measures to protect the test vehicles and full recording and storage of the test-driving data.

However, Japan will not ban experiments that do not meet the guidelines. Rather, test-drivers are encouraged to consult with police first.

Last year, the NPA set up a study panel to identify problems associated with autonomous driving, including who should be responsible for accidents and if, and how, driver’s licenses should change.

It is understood the panel will continue discussions, while closely watching how the technology progresses in coming years, as well as any international disputes over autonomous driving.

The industry and transport ministries, meanwhile, plan to promote the development of autonomous driving-related technology through government-industry-academia collaborations in various fields.