Business / Tech

Fully automated vehicles excluded from tests on Japan's public roads

Kyodo

The first guidelines on public road tests of self-driving vehicles, released Thursday by the National Police Agency, exclude fully automated cars without a steering wheel or driver.

The NPA’s recommendations say tests should be conducted with cars that have a driver behind the wheel to ensure safety and compliance with the road traffic law.

The government sees promoting the technology used in self-driving cars as a key to economic growth.

The police agency’s guidelines call for using “black boxes” on test cars to record all data and, in case of an accident, ascertaining the cause and taking corrective measures before test drives are resumed.

The NPA is expected to set up a panel of experts this summer to examine issues surrounding possible legislative reforms for this new technology, such as who would be legally responsible in case of an accident, the need to adapt the driver’s license system for self-driving cars and how to take measures against hacking cars.

The government has developed a classification system under which full self-driving automation is designated as level 4, in which the car is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions.

Level 3 has limited self-driving automation, with the driver able to control the vehicle when necessary but maneuvering is generally automatic.

Level 2 involves automation of multiple functions such as control, acceleration and steering.

Under level 1, only some vehicle functions are automated.