ANA Holdings Inc. said Wednesday it had started testing a semi-autonomous bus that it plans to use to transport passengers and staff working at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.
The operator of All Nippon Airways Co. will conduct the test with the electric bus, which is capable of carrying 57 passengers, on a 1.9-kilometer route through the end of this month, with the aim of starting a trial later in the year.
The vehicle, which has level 3 automation, allows drivers to turn their attention away from driving and engage in different tasks. The 12-meter-long bus is made by China’s BYD Co.
“As the Tokyo Olympics are approaching, we hope more passengers from around the world will see our latest technology,” said ANA Senior Executive Vice President Shinzo Shimizu in a ceremony at the airport.
In 2018, the number of passenger arrivals and departures from the facility increased 2.1 percent to 85 million, according to Japan Airport Terminal Co., which manages the Haneda Airport facilities.
In recent years, the government has been focusing on attracting tourists from overseas to enhance its economy and its cultural presence abroad, with international visitors to the country rising 2.2 percent to a record 31.88 million last year, according to government data.
Promoting technological innovations such as electric-powered autonomous transportation is an urgent task for the aviation industry as it faces a severe labor crunch and pressure to lower greenhouse gas emissions, ANA said.
In the near future, ANA hopes to introduce level 4 autonomous vehicles, which do not require a driver, and other self-driving vehicles for its ground operations, it said.
At Chubu Airport near Nagoya, a joint venture set up by Marubeni Corp. and ZMP Inc. aims to introduce a small autonomous bus for transporting passengers later this year.