A field trial of truck platooning in Japan shows how the new technology is spreading across the globe and sees a much more cooperative approach to the subject from the Japanese Government.
The trial took place this week on a highway in Tokyo’s West. It is part of a project to bring the platooning concept to the Asian industrial giant. Japan, like many developed countries, suffers from an acute driver shortage and concepts like platooning are seen as a way of overcoming this problem.
Interestingly the project involves all four of the Japanese truck manufacturers we are familiar with in Australia, Isuzu, Hino, Fuso and UD. A company called Toyota Tsusho is also involved representing a number of interested parties, including the Japanese Government.
The trucks used in the first tests include representatives of all of the truck brands involved. Running in a tight group on the highway the 6×2 rigid truck held a spacing of about 35 metres apart as they headed down the highway at 80 km/h. These test drives are scheduled between January 23 and February 1 on Shin-Tomei Expressway southwest of Tokyo and on Kita-Kano Expressway, north of the Japanese capital.
The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) initiated the platooning test. It is part of the Japanese government’s Future Strategy 2017. This strategy aims to roll out innovations like the Internet of Things, big data and artificial intelligence across all industries. In the commercial vehicle sector, truck platooning is expected to contribute to the reduction of fuel consumption and to lower CO2-emissions. In addition, truck platooning will help with Japan’s dramatic driver shortage issue.
Japan is rated 11th in the world on the KPMG Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index, well below the leading countries in the world, The Netherlands, Singapore, USA and Sweden. However, in the Index’s analysis of the readiness of the road infrastructure to handle autonomous vehicles and platooning, Japan is ranked just 3rd.
The issue for Japan is, in fact, consumer acceptance, which is very low, 16th in the world. Trials like those taking place in Tokyo are aimed at trying to allay public fears and mistrust of the new technology.
Incidentally, Australia is ranked below Japan in the AVRI, at 14th. Although our consumer acceptance rating is much higher than Japan, France and South Korea, our road infrastructure is deemed well below the levels achieved in Europe. However, we are considered better prepared than New Zealand and Canada.
Overall, Singapore is reckoned to be number one in preparation of its policy and regulation, while the US is classified as the leader in technology and innovation, The Netherlands leads the infrastructure ladder and the highest consumer acceptance is in Singapore, a country which has lived with driverless trains for some time.