Japan sets approval criteria for driverless vehicle road tests

JIJI

The National Police Agency on Thursday officially adopted approval standards for tests of driverless vehicles on public roads.

The standards require safety measures such as a system that stops vehicles automatically in case of emergency.

The NPA released a draft of the standards in April and solicited opinions from the public and experts.

After prefectural public safety commissions amend related regulations, applications will be accepted for tests, possibly as early as this summer.

With the government aiming to introduce services using driverless vehicles ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, major automakers are expected to speed-up development.

The tests will require police permission because the vehicles will share the roads with ordinary vehicles. Applications have to be filed with police stations covering the areas for the test, and the heads of the stations will grant permissions after screenings.

People operating and monitoring the vehicles through a remote system must have a driver’s license and will bear the same legal responsibilities as those for the drivers of ordinary vehicles.

The standards require that one vehicle be controlled by only one person.

The operator will determine the circumstances around the vehicle using images and sounds sent remotely and must be able to stop it in case there is a communications problem.

After applications for public road use are filed, police officers will ride the test vehicles to check whether their systems function properly.

To ensure safety, tests will be conducted on roads where radio communications are constantly available. Tests are not likely to be permitted on roads that are very crowded during commuting hours or on school routes.

The rules also state that residents near test roads should be informed in advance.

To deal with accidents, documents and other materials detailing the structures of the vehicles and how to stop them must be submitted to police and fire authorities.

Test permission, effective for six months, must be sought for each vehicle used. Testing two or more vehicles simultaneously will be allowed if authorities give permission.