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Tuesday, 26th June 2012
In General Japan News,

Driverless cars could reach Japan by 2020s

The roads of Japan could be occupied by driverless vehicles within ten years, after the government unveiled a plan to bring an 'autopilot system' to life.

It is hoped that if the technology can be proved safe and secure, it would dramatically improve traffic speed and remove the risk of road accidents on motorways, while helping prevent issues such as driver tiredness.

The technology would work through a system of sensors which would determine the vehicle's environment and then navigating themselves. Drivers would only be required to input their destination, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

In a bid to make the dream a reality, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry is launching a programme featuring an expert study panel. Discussions about how best to proceed are also set to get underway.

Initial suggestions are that drivers would manually control their car on minor roads away from their home, before switching to 'automatic driving' after joining an expressway, which would feature a specific lane for autopilot vehicles.

Speaking to the news provider, a Road Bureau spokesperson said: "The system could prevent such accidents as a vehicle veering out of a lane, as happened with the tour bus that struck a wall alongside Kanetsu Expressway on April 29.

"The planned autopilot system, in combination with the road information transmission system already in place, will make it technically possible to realise driverless driving in about ten years."

While it may seem like the outlandish dream of a science fiction movie, some of the technology already actually exists.

Japanese technology firm Panasonic unveiled an in-car 'radar' system last month which it said could revolutionise traffic control by allowing vehicles to detect where obstacles are with precision accuracy.

The 'millimetre-wave radar technology' was developed in association with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and uses 'coded pulse modulation' to identify potential hazards and alert the driver to their presence.

Written by Susan Ballion