Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) wants every fifth car in the country to be autonomous by 2030, DigiTimes reports. The Japanese automakers have been working on self-driving vehicles and related technologies for a while now and Tokyo is now reportedly ready to assist them in their endeavors. DigiTimes indicates that the Japanese government will soon start issuing testing permits to vehicle manufacturers looking to test their self-driving prototypes in areas with low population density. Tokyo will start issuing permits at some point this year, but no specific time frame has yet been given.
Nevertheless, METI is expected to facilitate the innovation efforts of Japanese automakers as the regulators are hoping local manufacturers will be able to establish a network of autonomous taxi services by 2020, i.e. by the time the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics are scheduled to start. The current plan is to have self-driving taxi services in three years, autonomous vehicles on freeways in eight, and driverless cars on city roads in ten, the report indicates. Once self-driving vehicles are allowed to operate on all public roads, METI expects the adoption rates of such solutions will surge in the years that follow. Following that assumption, the Japanese Ministry believes it's possible that 20 percent of all operational vehicles in Japan will be autonomous come 2030.
The advancement of self-driving solutions in the country is expected to be spearheaded by Toyota Motor, the largest automaker in the Far Eastern country. Toyota already said it's aiming to debut its experimental self-driving vehicle fleet on public roads at some point this year, meaning the company might be the first automaker in Japan to be issued a self-driving testing permit by METI. Not much is known about Toyota's existing autonomous driving solutions as recent reports only mention some general descriptions, saying that the company's technology entails a combination of artificial intelligence (AI), precision sensors, and Internet-enabled features. Regardless, it's understood that Toyota's self-driving prototypes will at least partially be powered by the technology developed by Preferred Networks, a Japanese deep learning company aiming to advance AI solutions that recently received an investment from Toyota. More details on the self-driving ambitions of Japanese automakers will likely be available later this year.