Self-driving Technology for Travels in Japan

Self-driving Technology for Travels in Japan

Self-driving technology promises to revolutionize the way we get from one place to another. It could slash the cost of travel, reduce the rate of accidents, and, potentially, transform the way we think about car ownership.

In June, the UN announced an agreement between more than fifty countries to standardize the way that vehicles of this sort are ultimately regulated. Among the requirements is a black box fitted to every vehicle, and an Automated Lane Keeping System. This paves the way for ‘level 3’ vehicle automation, in which the driver is required to be available to drive at safety-critical junctures. This is a step along the road to full autonomy; level 4 cars are those where the driver does not need to drive at any point, and level 5 cars are fully autonomous, and don’t even have manual controls.

Japan is a country that’s on the cutting edge of this particular technology.

Much of the trial work will take place in city centers, where lots of data can be gathered quickly. But more remote towns might also play a role. In Gunma Prefecture, the town of Naganohara is set to make its amphibious bus service partially driverless. The project will roll out over five years, and the testing will occur during winter, when the tourist trade is off-season and the bus itself is empty. A similar program is being rolled out at Haneda airport, where an autonomous bus service is being tested.

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The timescale for driverless technology is smaller than the public might suppose. A host of manufacturers claim to have level 4 driverless cars in the pipeline, ready for delivery in the early 2020s. Barring a global catastrophe, it’s likely that many of the world’s roads will be mostly autonomous within the decade.

What components are Required?

Of course, the development of driverless technology isn’t actually a single project, but a whole range of them, comprising both software and hardware. Machine-learning algorithms will likely play as big a role as the manufacture of the chips that actually host them.

Driverless technology will, for example, be quite impossible without gyroscopes and accelerometers – the electronic means through which a computer might establish where it is in the world at any given moment. In previous projects, like space shuttles, gimbal-style platforms have been used – but these are impracticable in a personal vehicle. Instead, highly-accurate MEMS chips will need to be substituted.

The same is true of inexpensive cameras, which will need to be positioned across the entire vehicle, wireless broadcasting, and GPS systems. For the driverless car to be widely adopted, it’ll need to be commercially viable as well as safe and practical. The path to a driverless future is paved with increasingly tiny and inexpensive microcircuitry!

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