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Automated transport talks begin in Japan

TOKYO (ANN/THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN) – A pivotal step toward the future of transportation is set to unfold next month as a Japanese government panel initiates discussions to pinpoint critical issues hindering the widespread adoption of driverless taxi and unmanned self-driving transportation services in Japan, as announced by officials on Wednesday.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, addressing officials convened to deliberate digital administrative and fiscal reform, emphasised the urgency to expedite efforts in establishing regulatory frameworks for self-driving cars.

The goal is to pave the way for the commercialisation of innovative transportation services.

Kishida urged officials to explore strategies for overcoming challenges associated with proposed ride-sharing services, encompassing considerations such as taxi industry deregulation.

The panel is expected to draw up a report as early as May next year after discussing what kind of liability taxi companies and automakers would need to bear under civil and administrative laws and regulations in the event of traffic accidents involving driverless transportation services.

The panel will be joined by officials from government agencies, including the Digital Agency and the transport ministry, representatives from insurance companies and automakers, and lawyers.

Driverless taxi services are expected to be utilised as a new means of transportation in areas with declining populations.

Japan’s first commercial service using so-called Level 4 autonomous driving started in Eiheiji, Fukui Prefecture, in May.

The first vehicle accident involving Level 4 driving occurred in the town last month, when a pedal of a parked bicycle was hit.

File photo of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaking during a news conference on the last day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Week in San Francisco, California, on November 17, 2023. PHOTO: AFP