The Japanese government has announced plans to allow self-driving delivery vehicles on public roads in the country. This move is part of an effort to address the growing demand for home delivery services and alleviate the burden on human drivers.

Under the new rules, self-driving vehicles will be allowed to operate on designated public roads, with a speed limit of 10 km/h. The vehicles will be required to have a human operator on board to take control in case of emergencies.

The government plans to launch a pilot program for self-driving delivery vehicles in 2023, with a goal of having the vehicles in widespread use by the mid-2020s.

“Self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionize the delivery industry, improving efficiency and reducing costs,” said Japan’s transport minister, Hiroshi Moriyama. “We are committed to supporting the development of this technology and ensuring its safe and effective use.”

Several companies have already begun developing self-driving delivery vehicles for the Japanese market, including SoftBank Robotics and Nuro. These companies have been testing their vehicles on private roads and closed courses, but the new regulations will allow them to expand their testing to public roads.

“We are excited to be at the forefront of this new era of delivery technology,” said Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank Robotics. “Self-driving vehicles have the potential to transform the way we live and work, and we are committed to making this technology a reality.”

The announcement has been welcomed by industry experts, who see self-driving delivery vehicles as a way to address the growing demand for home delivery services, particularly in urban areas.

“Self-driving delivery vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, while improving the speed and efficiency of deliveries,” said Yukihiro Matsushita, an expert in transport policy at the National Institute for Land and Infrastructure Management.

However, some have raised concerns about the safety of self-driving vehicles on public roads, particularly in light of recent accidents involving autonomous vehicles in other countries.

“We need to ensure that these vehicles are safe and reliable before they are allowed on public roads,” said Keiji Yamada, a professor of transportation engineering at Tokyo University. “This will require rigorous testing and evaluation, as well as strong regulations to ensure that the technology is used responsibly.”

Overall, the move by the Japanese government to allow self-driving delivery vehicles on public roads represents a significant step forward for the development of autonomous vehicles in the country, and could have a major impact on the delivery industry in the years to come.

Via The Impactlab