Japan tests driverless buses for rural dwellers

Japan is trialling a self-driving shuttle from developer DeNA Co in the rural area of Nishikata.

During the initial testing, which began in September, the six-seat bus transported people from a service area to a municipal complex with healthcare services. The bus travels at a slow and steady speed of 10kmh (6mph).

The current trial is aimed at rural areas of the country where a majority of the population is over the age of 65.

Nishikata, 115 km from the capital of Tokyo, is one such area. Roughly a third of its small population of 6,300 are elderly, and with limited buses and bus drivers, it can be difficult for these residents to get around.

The bus is also being tested under various road conditions, and to see how people crossing in front of the vehicle react to its warning signal.

Depending on the results of these tests, Japan’s government will convert highway rest stops into hubs that elderly residents can be picked up from.  

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