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Narita Airport Self-Driving Bus Demonstration: Four Companies Work to Create Japan's First Unmanned Bus Service Using Local 5G

2022.04.22

The GSM8 vehicle used in the demonstration experiment
Courtesy of TIER IV, Inc.

On February 14, a demonstration test of a remotely monitored automated bus was launched in Narita International Airport's restricted area. The service uses local 5G and carrier-based communications and was the first of its kind at a Japanese airport. The demonstration ran until February 28.

To achieve this, NTT East, TIER IV, KDDI, and Narita International Airport (NAA) are jointly participating in a framework for a demonstration experiment for the introduction of automatic driving equivalent to level 4 (High Automation) as defined (proposed) by the Panel on Business Strategies for Automated Driving Action Plan for Realizing Automated Driving in Airport Restricted Areas. The Panel has been organized by the Civil Aviation Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. The groups are also participating in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications' 'FY2021 Development Demonstrations for Realizing Local 5G to Solve Local Issues.'

Level 4 equivalent automated driving at airports, as defined by the Panel, is "a system that can respond of all aspects of the driving task without driver intervention, based upon an operational design domain (ODD) agreed upon among the parties involved, including the developer of the automated driving vehicle, the operator of the vehicle, and the airport manager."

To realize this, the demonstration will see the GSM8 self-driving vehicle automatically drive (with a driver present) through restricted areas of Narita International Airport to identify issues that need to be addressed to enable a practical implementation in these restricted areas. GSM8 is based on a vehicle manufactured by Tajima Motor Corporation, which utilizes TIER IV's self-driving system.

The experiment will also include technical verification of a redundant communication infrastructure that uses local 5G and carrier communications to monitor images from multiple in-vehicle cameras remotely.

Remote monitoring of the automated vehicle
Courtesy of TIER IV, Inc.

Japan's transportation infrastructure is seeing its workforce decline due to the rapid aging of the population and the declining birthrate. In addition, airport operations are also facing a shortage of workers.

The four companies decided to focus on automated driving technologies as one of the solutions to this issue and conduct demonstration tests, hoping to address the human resources shortage and reduce the risk of vehicle accidents caused by human error.

Each company will have different roles in the joint consortium. NTT East will be responsible for project management, construction, technical verification, and performance evaluation of the local 5G communication environment. It will also be responsible for feasibility evaluations of automatic driving using local 5G in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications' 'FY2021 Development Demonstrations for Realizing Local 5G to Solve Local Issues'.

TIER IV will be in charge of project management, provision of automated vehicles, development and demonstration evaluations of automated driving systems and remote monitoring systems, and wireless redundancy systems as part of the Panel for the Realization of Automatic Driving in Airport Restricted Areas. KDDI will be responsible for providing carrier communications (5G and 4G), data collection, and analysis of carrier communications used for remote monitoring and monitoring quality. NAA will be responsible for providing the demonstration area, identifying issues at the airport, and evaluating the demonstration.

The four companies will report the results of this demonstration experiment to the Panel and assist in formulating rules for automated driving in restricted areas, aiming to realize level 4 automated driving in restricted areas by 2025, as planned by the Civil Aviation Bureau.

As well as introducing and implementing automatic driving equivalent to level 4 at Narita International Airport using local 5G and other technologies, the companies are also aiming to promote the spread and development of this technology to other airports.

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd.(https://sci-news.co.jp/). Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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