Special Interview Automated Valet Parking will Change Japan’s Cities
Coordination between Cars and Infrastructure to Move toward Automation
One issue in urban planning is that many people don’t think we need costly infrastructure any more. With a declining population and low economic growth, proactive investment doesn’t occur as an idea. And on the car development side, people believe that the automobile is everything, and try to achieve everything within the vehicle. There are even trial calculations showing that trying to do that would incur a cost of 15 million yen per car.
Our goal isn’t to achieve automated driving using the car only. The car and the infrastructure need to coordinate productively.
We want to investigate requirements, build a solid business, and then use it to solve social problems.
Your concept of coordinating with infrastructure is great. In terms of the urban element, roads and infrastructure deteriorate over a long period of time. Maintaining them incurs costs. That’s why government and corporations don’t take the initiative, and engineers don’t feel motivated either. But if you combine the concept of connecting vehicles and urban spaces with infrastructure that supports more accurate and comfortable automated driving, you’re not just maintaining or repairing infrastructure. You’re investing in making it more sophisticated, which inspires the motivation for R&D.
Just like the oft-mentioned IoT concept, all objects can link up to achieve better performance.
Many Japanese corporations still cling to the mindset of trying to complete everything using only a single technology. The concept of using all existing objects is important in ITS, and we need to create platforms for that first.
Prof. Doi, in the process you mentioned earlier of re-creating townscapes by gathering people into cities, reducing parking lots, and using them efficiently, what are the important elements other than automated driving typified by Automated Valet Parking?
One thing affecting automation is the speed that people require. The problem in Japanese cities today is that the driving speed is too fast in suburbs, especially in residential areas. There are some areas called “30 Zones”, where community roads have a speed limit of 30 km/h as a traffic safety measure. Similarly, the “movement within hubs” that I described earlier needs to be reduced to 20 km/h or lower. This can be popularized immediately with automation technology. If we teach cars that they need to protect human lives above all, accidents will no longer occur. We need to thoroughly restrict speeds in the necessary areas and build towns with compact road and parking spaces. This concept is known as PSC (Priority-Speed-Compact), and it is the kind of thinking we need to create a safe society from now on. In Tokyo, values are changing from fast to slow already. While this depends on the degree of aging, it has been reported that people accept a slower pace when they reach 65.
I think that will be easily accepted in areas with many elderly people, but in communities with a broader generation, how do you think we can compromise?
Commercialization in the Early 2020s to Make Automated Driving a Business
Among the three types of movement I described earlier, we should allow people to move more rapidly between cities and hubs. I believe cars will gain that kind of performance, especially with the evolution of automated driving and safety performance. On the other hand, I think people of all ages will need to accept “30 Zones” for movement within a hub. Preparations for the 2020 Olympics are being fast-tracked right now. Mr. Ishiguro, do you imagine we’ll achieve Level 4 by then?
Yes, I would like to start with something small-scale in the early 2020s. METI and MLIT have an “Automated Driving Business Committee”, and they’re starting a project for car manufacturers, suppliers, and parking lot operators to collaborate on how to make automated driving a viable business. Automated Valet Parking and convoy driving have been selected as projects that will be ready for commercialization in the early 2020s. As Japanese corporations, we hope to achieve Level 4 ahead of the world.
On the business side, you could imagine that communal housing with exclusive valet parking lots will have a higher asset value. You could have projects with condominium developers as well.
I see, thank you very much. I would be so happy if cars with features we’ve created could not only aid the people who buy them, but also help solve societal issues.
- After graduating from university, worked in the editorial departments of automobile magazines Car Sensor and Car Sensor Edge and then became a freelance editor and writer. In addition to specialized auto industry journals, general-interest magazines, he has reported on many leading businesspeople in automobile-related and other fields, and is also a contributor to publications including for Nikkei Business, Nikkei Top Leader, and Nikkei Digital Marketing. Member of JMS (Japan Motorsport-Journalist Society).