March 31, 2023
Joint Press Release with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
METI and MLIT have jointly been advancing the RoAD to L4 project since FY2021, and as part of the project, the ministries have been advancing a series of validation tests to achieve automated driving mobility services. METI hereby announces that on March 30, 2023, automated driving vehicles to be used in Eiheiji Town, Fukui Prefecture, approved as automated operation Level 4 system under the Road Transport Vehicle Act for the first time in Japan.
*1 Note: The term “Level 4” refers to a state in which an automated operation system works as an alternative to the entire driving operation in a limited area and specific conditions of a running environment.
*2 Note: RoAD means “Project on Research, Development, Demonstration and Deployment (RDD&D) of Automated Driving toward Level 4 and its Enhanced Mobility Services”
Japan’s “Grand Design and Action Plan for a New Form of Capitalism and Follow-ups (June 7, 2022)” upholds a goal of “starting automated driving mobility services operated only by remote monitoring, taking advantage of abandoned railroad sites and other areas, around FY2022.” As an effort to achieve this goal, METI and MLIT have been advancing the RoAD to L4 project.
Specifically, the ministries have commissioned part of the project, i.e., “Theme 1: Initiative for Achieving Automated Driving Services only by Remote Monitoring (Level 4),” to a consortium consisting of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (hereinafter referred to as “AIST”) and a group of private entities (Soliton Systems K.K., Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.), and the ministries have been advancing a series of validation tests of technologies and services involving automated driving vehicles and remotely monitoring system in Eiheiji Town, Fukui Prefecture.
METI hereby announces that AIST submitted a request for approval of automated driving vehicles to be used in the validation tests as automated operation Level 4 system to the Chubu District Transport Bureau, MLIT, and that in response, the application has been approved on March 30, 2023, for the first time in Japan.
The ministries will conduct some validation tests of the system concerning the technologies and services configured with Level 4 technologies, taking advantage of an approval system for specified automated driving operation under the revised Road Traffic Act that is scheduled to come into force on April 1, 2023.
3. Approved automated operation system (called “ZEN drive Pilot Level 4”)
Making use of the automated operation system approved this time for specified automated driving operation under the revised Road Traffic Act will realize driverless automated vehicles with no need for an operator in the vehicles or at a remote location, which contributes to reducing the burden of human driver or human operator as seen in the following example.
- Expecting a response to emergency and other situations, businesses have to conventionally prepare safety drivers who may take over the operation of vehicles. However, the automated operation system becomes possible to recognize driving environment, conducts starting, stopping and other driving operations and automatically stop safely the vehicle in emergency and other situations, which leads to no need for drivers in the vehicles.
Moreover, the Approved system is required to conduct automated operation under the predetermined conditions (conditions of running environments) that MLIT has set, e.g., vehicle running on an electromagnetic guide wire and no vehicle running in bad weather, and the vehicle will run at a maximum speed of 12 km/h.
Divisions in Charge
ITS and Autonomous Driving Promotion Office, Automobile Division, Manufacturing Industries Bureau