In light of demographic shifts such as an aging population, a declining birthrate and a shortage of drivers, Japan’s transportation infrastructure is facing challenges as rail and bus services contract in outlying areas. To address these mobility challenges, municipalities in Japan are increasingly looking to autonomous driving technologies as a solution.
In a recent major development, starting April 2023, Level 4 autonomous driving vehicles can operate without drivers on Japan’s public roads under a specified set of conditions. Level 4 vehicles can conduct driving tasks without human intervention in limited areas.
BOLDLY Inc., an autonomous driving systems development and service subsidiary of SoftBank Corp. (TOKYO: 9434), has been a pioneer in autonomous driving transportation, launching Japan’s first autonomous bus service to operate on public roads in 2020.
On May 16, 2023, it unveiled a brand new Level 4 vehicle for its lineup.
“MiCa” to hit Japan’s roads later this year
BOLDLY is the first company in the world to purchase “MiCa,” a Level 4 autonomous shuttle developed by Auve Tech, an Estonia-based company. To operate MiCa to Japan, BOLDLY is working to arrange demonstration runs, obtain the necessary permits from relevant government agencies, and lay the groundwork for public road testing starting in the summer of 2023.
On May 16, 2023, members of the press were able to see and ride the Japanese version of MiCa at The University of Tokyo’s Kashiwa Campus, which is located on the outskirts of Tokyo. Developed by Auve Tech, in collaboration with BOLDLY, the Japanese version of MiCa is equipped with devices and cameras that are compatible with BOLDLY's operation management platform called "Dispatcher."
Furthermore, to accommodate Japanese roads, this version of MiCa has its doors installed on the left, unlike the Estonian version where they are located on the right.
Also on May 16, the Town of Sakai in Ibaraki Prefecture, which was the first municipality to implement BOLDLY’s autonomous driving systems in 2020, signed an agreement with BOLDLY to purchase MiCa autonomous shuttles. The municipality plans to have them driving on its roads within the year. BOLDLY CEO Yuki Saji noted that Sakai has been a forerunner in implementing autonomous driving transportation, and that he appreciates their cooperation to implement MiCa as a new vehicle.
Nationwide, BOLDLY aims to introduce approximately 10 MiCa vehicles to Japan this fiscal year.
(Posted on May 18, 2023)
by SoftBank News Editors