Honda launching world’s first production car with ‘eyes-off’ self-driving tech by mid 2021

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Japanese officials approved Honda’s Automated Drive feature to be deployed on the upcoming Honda Legend.

Honda has received regulatory approval from the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) to begin selling vehicles equipped with Level 3 autonomous driving, the automaker announced on Wednesday.

In a press release, Honda highlighted that it would begin the sale of the Honda Legend equipped with its all-new “Traffic Jam Pilot” feature by the end of the company’s fiscal year (March 31, 2021). The feature is reportedly similar to GM’s Super Cruise and Ford’s Active Drive Assist in the sense that all road conditions must be perfect before Traffic Jam Pilot can be activated.

However, unlike the current domestic offerings where the driver is still technically in control of the vehicle, SAE J3016 defines Level 3 as a vehicle-operated functionality while engaged.

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Japan to build world’s first all-electric tanker equipped with li-ion batteries

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Japanese shipping company Asahi Tanker has announced it plans to build two “world first” zero-emission electric propulsion tankers which will be powered by lithium-ion batteries.

The little that is known about the details is available only through what appears to be a shaky English translation. But it does give the specifications of the two new vessels that will use the “e5 tanker” planned and designed by e5 Labl – a joint effort announced in August 2019 between Asahi Tanker, Exeno Yamamizu Corp, Mitsui and Mitsubishi Corporation.

Set to work as a marine fuel supply vessel in Tokyo Bay, the new battery-powered tanker will measure in with a gross tonnage of approximately 499 tonnes and be able to reach speeds of around 11 knots.

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Japan may have beaten Coronavirus without lockdowns or mass testing. But how?

Japan Lifts Coronavirus State of Emergency Nationwide

Japan’s state of emergency is set to end with new cases of the coronavirus dwindling to mere dozens. It got there despite largely ignoring the default playbook.

No restrictions were placed on residents’ movements, and businesses from restaurants to hairdressers stayed open. No high-tech apps that tracked people’s movements were deployed. The country doesn’t have a center for disease control. And even as nations were exhorted to “test, test, test,” Japan has tested just 0.2% of its population — one of the lowest rates among developed countries.

Yet the curve has been flattened, with deaths well below 1,000, by far the fewest among the Group of Seven developed nations. In Tokyo, its dense center, cases have dropped to single digits on most days. While the possibility of a more severe second wave of infection is ever-present, Japan has entered and is set to leave its emergency in just weeks, with the status lifted already for most of the country and Tokyo and the remaining four other regions set to exit Monday.

Analyzing just how Japan defied the odds and contained the virus while disregarding the playbook used by other successful countries has become a national conversation. Only one thing is agreed upon: that there was no silver bullet, no one factor that made the difference.

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Why America is losing the toilet race

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I just got back from my first trip to Japan, and I’m now in love with the country. The ramen, yakitori and sushi. The gorgeous volcanoes. The fascinating people and culture. But of all the things I fell in love with, there’s one that I can’t stop thinking about: the toilets.

Japanese toilets are marvels of technological innovation. They have integrated bidets, which squirt water to clean your private parts. They have dryers and heated seats. They use water efficiently, clean themselves and deodorize the air, so bathrooms actually smell good. They have white noise machines, so you can fill your stall with the sound of rain for relaxation and privacy. Some even have built-in night lights and music players. It’s all customizable and controlled by electronic buttons on a panel next to your seat.

In Japan, these high-tech toilets are everywhere: hotels, restaurants, bus stations, rest stops and around 80% of homes. It’s glorious. Then, I come back to the United States, and our toilets are stuck in the age of dirty coal mines and the horse and buggy. They basically have one feature: flush. No heated seats. No nice smells and sounds. No sanitizing blasts of liquid. It’s like cleaning your dishes without water. It’s gross. And it got me thinking: Why can’t we have high-tech toilets too?

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Desperate for workers, aging Japan turns to robots for healthcare

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A woman wearing a Cyberdyne lumbar robotic suit, which is designed to help her walk, gets an assist from caregiver Asami Konishi.

TSUKUBA, Japan — In America and other aging societies around the world, it has become common for the elderly to be cared for by their graying children or older workers. That’s largely because the younger labor force is shrinking, and few want to do such low-paying, back-aching work.

Japan sees an answer in robots.

At Minami Tsukuba nursing home near Tokyo, caregiver Asami Konishi wears a robotic device on her hips that cuts the stress on her back when she bends and lifts someone.

“It really helps when I have to pick up a heavier male patient,” said the 34-year-old.

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Why ‘flammable ice’ could be the future of energy

 

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Last year, Japan succeeded in extracting an untapped fuel from its ocean floor – methane hydrate, or flammable ice. Proponents argue that it will offset energy crises, but what are the environmental risks?

Buried below the seabed around Japan, there are beds of methane, trapped in molecular cages of ice. In some places, the sediment covering these deposits of frozen water and methane has been eroded away, leaving whitish mounts of what looks like dirty ice rearing up out of the seafloor.

Put a match to this sea ice and it doesn’t just melt, it ignites

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Japan plans for 10 billion 5G devices by adding 14-digit phone numbers

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Increased data bandwidth might be the best-known advantage of 5G cellular technology, but new 5G networks will also support billions of newly connected devices, ranging from cars to internet of things sensors — each with their own telephone number. With its 5G rollout just around the corner, Japan is preparing for a surge in demand for new phone numbers by expanding the maximum number of digits from 11 to 14, a change that will enable mobile carriers to offer 10 billion new numbers starting with the 020 prefix.

In the United States, seven-digit local numbers are always preceded by three-digit geographic area codes, and while Japan has a similar 10-digit system for geographic numbers, it has used either 10- or 11-digit numbers for non-geographic numbers. Japanese mobile phones and other wireless devices are assigned non-geographic numbers.

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Long-nosed prototype of ‘world’s fastest bullet train’ ALFA-X unveiled in Japan

RIFU, Miyagi — A long-nosed prototype of the next-generation Tohoku and Hokkaido shinkansen bullet trains, which are set to have the world’s fastest regular operation speed of 360 kilometers per hour, was unveiled to the press here on May 9.

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Over 13% of the homes in Japan are abandoned

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Japan’s population is shrinking. Last year it fell by nearly 450,000 people. Not since records began in 1899 had so few babies been born (921,000). Before that, 2017 had also set a record. Meanwhile the number of people passing away last year set a post-war record. The figures are part of a larger pattern in which births have declined and deaths increased steadily for decades.

Less noticed is another alarming figure that’s been growing. According to the latest government statistics, the number of abandoned homes in Japan reached a record high of 8.5 million as of Oct. 1, 2018, up by 260,000 from five years earlier. As a proportion of total housing stock, abandoned homes reached 13.6%.

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Japanese spacecraft ‘bombs’ asteroid in scientific mission

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The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is working to confirm that its experiment to bomb the asteroid Ryugu was successful. Today at 11:36 am Japan time, JAXA’s unmanned Hayabusa2 deep space probe deployed the SCI (Small Carry-on Impactor), which is designed to blow a hole in the surface of Ryugu to allow for deep sampling, but safety issues prevented the spacecraft from witnessing the detonation directly.

Shooting explosives at an asteroid may seem like a great way to break the monotony of a dull afternoon, but it has a very serious purpose. Aside from pure science, the world’s space agencies are very interested in gaining as much information as possible about the structure and composition of asteroids because it may one day be necessary to deflect or destroy one that is on a collision course with Earth.

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Japan is getting serious about flying cars

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The country’s once-envied government skunk works has set its sights on speeding up the arrival of aerial taxis and trucks.

Japan often appears stuck in yesterday’s vision of tomorrow. Flip phones are common enough that they’re cited as the exemplar of a phenomenon called Galapagos Syndrome, referring to the country’s tendency to stick with technologies endemic only to its islands. Another anachronism, Yahoo, remains wildly popular. Tokyo of the 1980s may have inspired the futuristic cityscape of Blade Runner, complete with flying cars, but the fax machines that were cutting-edge when the film came out remain ubiquitous tools today.

Ensuring Japan doesn’t fall behind the technological curve has for decades been the job of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, a powerful agency housed in a squat modern office block in Tokyo’s orderly government quarter, a few blocks south of the jagged moat surrounding the Imperial Palace. The building is orthogonal in every respect, a uniform stack of concrete threaded with long, featureless corridors. The bureaucrats here guided Japan’s postwar economic miracle, a boom that gave the world the transistor radio, the Walkman, and the Prius—and almost no transformative innovations since. None of the automakers championed by METI are today on the leading edge of robotic driving. For the most part, Japan’s faded tech companies can’t lay claim to either smartphone or internet greatness.

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A massive, ‘semi-infinite’ trove of rare-earth metals has been found in Japan

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  • Researchers have found hundreds of years’ worth of rare-earth materials underneath Japanese waters — enough to supply to the world on a “semi-infinite basis,” according to a study published in Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports.
  • Rare-earth metals are crucial in the making of high-tech products such as electric vehicles and batteries, and most of the world has relied on China for almost all of its needs.

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