Diet OKs revisions to transportation law to ensure safety of self-driving vehicles


The Diet on Friday enacted legislative revisions aimed at creating systems to ensure the safety of self-driving vehicles.

The revisions to the Road Transport Vehicle Act, approved unanimously by the House of Councilors at a plenary session, call for the applying of vehicle safety standards to self-driving equipment necessary to check the surroundings, including cameras and radars.

Under the revised law, special certification will be granted to auto safety inspection business operators capable of undertaking maintenance work for self-driving equipment.

The original law did not have provisions that assumed vehicles would ever be self-driving.

The revisions also require automakers to provide technical information necessary to carry out inspections of self-driving equipment.

For operations to update programs installed in automobiles through the internet and other means, a permit system will be created so that abuse can be prevented.

The legal revisions come at a time when the government aims to realize so-called Level 3 self-driving, in which the driver controls the vehicle in emergencies and on expressways, as early as 2020.

Also by around the same time, it plans to introduce Level 4 automated driving, which does not require a driver in the vehicle, for transportation services in limited places including sparsely populated areas.

The transport ministry plans to consider specific conditions under which self-driving equipment can be used, such as driving speeds, routes and weather conditions.

Following a series of scandals last year in which automakers cheated on pre-shipment inspections of finished vehicles, the revised law has a provision allowing the government to order problem automakers to take corrective action, thereby virtually preventing them from mass production until adequate measures have been taken.