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Japan Autonomous Driving Trends Report


Japan’s automotive market is highly developed and evolving. Autonomous driving is advancing for both commercial and personal use. Naturally, global OEMs, suppliers, and technology companies are leading the charge, with significant inputs from research institutes and universities.

In 2017, the Japanese government allowed driving tests on highways in suburban and low-population areas. In 2019, the country anticipated a great number of autonomous vehicles (such as taxis and shuttles) ahead of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics. In 2020, the autonomous cars market is expected to be further concentrated by the industry-wide effect of COVID-19. OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers are likely to focus more on core technologies than R&D.

Most major Japanese OEMs are looking to enter the autonomous vehicles arena, especially because of the postponed but upcoming Olympics set for 2021. Autonomous shuttles and public transport are likely to be introduced ahead of personal vehicles. This is in accordance with the anticipated needs of the country, including the movement of large numbers of people for the Tokyo Olympics, and the improving transit options for the aging population in the country.

As Japan faces an increasing shortage in labor force, autonomous vehicles become important for the society in both urban and rural areas. The Japanese government has promoted the development of autonomous driving technology through various initiatives including the ever-evolving Public-Private Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Initiative/Roadmap. As part of this, 29 organizations, including OEMs, suppliers, universities, and start-ups, have been participating in autonomous driving demonstration experiments in Tokyo‘s coastal area from October 2019, set to continue until 2021.

The global automotive industry was dramatically impacted by COVID-19, halting production and sales for all major industry participants. However, R&D activities continue. Strategic partnerships and ventures between industry participants, as well as the adoption and development of relevant technologies, are imperative and will drive the market further.

Japan is poised to be a leader in the global development of autonomous vehicles through to full autonomy. Advanced autonomous technology is likely to be witnessed in the market from 2025, especially for commercial vehicles. Level 4/5 autonomous cars are likely to be commercialized in Japan from 2030, with ambitions for increased adoption for both commercial and private use.

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