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Japan 2020 Olympics Set to Showcase a New Era of Mobility

Rimmi Singhi

Excitement is building up for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo as there is more for tourists and locals to look forward to than just watching the world’s best athletes excel in their game. Tokyo 2020 will not just be a sports event but is set to amaze the world by showcasing the future of travel i.e. autonomous vehicles. The goal is to take advantage of the worldwide attention to display innovative automotive industry technologies by Japan to foster economic growth of the nation.

Driverless Cars on Tokyo Streets in 2020

Reportedly, the country will launch self-driving vehicle services by 2020. with around 100 autonomous vehicles roaming freely near the Olympics venues, carrying up to 7,000 passengers in the week starting Jul 6. Markedly, this will be Japan’s biggest driverless vehicle trial to date, exhibiting the country’s strength in the nascent technology. The country, which aims to put self-driving cars on the market by 2025, will be running a slew of tests on public roads in Tokyo till 2022. Japan’s auto biggies like Toyota Motor TM and Nissan Motor NSANY along with local parts manufacturers and startups will be participating in the event.  While Toyota has revealed its fleet of autonomous vehicles it plans to introduce at Tokyo 2020, Nissan has not detailed its lineup. Both Toyota and Nissan carry a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).  You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Toyota’s Olympics Dream

Toyota intends to utilize its sponsorship of Tokyo 2020 to display its upgraded technologies including zero-emission transportation, robots, driverless cars, accessible people mover (APM).

Toyota will support Tokyo 2020 with APM mobility vehicle set to run between venues for short-distance trips. Japan’s biggest automaker will provide test drives of the Level 4 driverless cars, with around 90% of its entire Olympic fleet electrified.

As part of its big push toward robotaxis, Toyota will supply 20 of its e-Palette electric vehicles to serve the athletes. The vehicles will be controlled by a specially designed automated driving-system and will feature 3D-mapping technology along with an operation management system to offer automated driving at SAE (society of automotive engineers) level 4. Notably, e-Palette’s specs and capabilities put it in the same ballpark as Waymo’s current fleet of driverless vehicles.

The automotive giant will also have a tiny version of the e-Palette, named Field Support Robot, to carry javelins, shot puts and other items from throwing events. Apart from the javelin-collecting robot, Toyota’s humanoid robot and a telepresence robot are also set for Olympics debut. Another AI technology-enabled, driverless vehicle, known as Concept-i, will travel alongside torch relay runners.

The Japanese auto giant is working on ‘Chauffeur’ software, which is focused on full autonomy. It is also working on another system ‘Guardian’, which is an advanced driver-assist system, similar to Tesla’s TSLA Autopilot. Notably, last year, the company inked a deal to invest $500 million in a self-driving project with Uber on a fleet of autonomous Sienna minivans.

Japan Aims to Step Up Autonomous Drive Push

Despite being the leader in many industrial fields, Japan’s auto industry lags behind in the field of autonomous driving compared with its U.S. counterparts. Amid the lack of sufficient regulatory and collaborative framework to develop self-driving infrastructure, Japan has failed to keep pace with the proactive involvement of auto companies like Tesla, Daimler AG DDAIF, General Motors GM, Volkswagen along with tech giants like Alphabet GOOGL, NVIDIA NVDA, and Intel among a few others.

However, the market for driverless cars in Japan is set to grow rapidly as rollouts shift into high gear next year. As the automotive industry is a highly prioritized area for government and companies alike, stakeholders are willingly embracing collaborations to develop next-generation vehicles. The development of proper regulations has gradually started attracting worldwide technology providers who can test new technologies without any concerns. Promoting the next-generation technologies will also prop up local jobs and help keep the country's carmakers competitive overseas. 

Self-driving vehicles are expected to become immensely important in Japan in increasing traffic safety amid an aging demography. Traffic accidents involving the elderly are on the rise in the country and the implementation of next-gen driverless cars will be a key milestone, which would minimize road fatalities. The number of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) units—which are crucial for providing safety and convivence to automated driving— has been on the rise. Japan’s emphasis on safety is expected to result in greater consumer acceptance of driverless cars.

Final Thoughts

We believe that the proper implementation of government policies and adoption of technologies like artificial intelligence, sensor fusion, V2X communication and Internet of Things among others will aid Japan-based carmakers to unleash the full potential of an automated transportation system in the coming years. So, brace yourself as the race to get driverless cars on the road will accelerate in the near future.

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