Tokyo Metropolitan Government commences test runs of self-driving bus in effort to address bus driver shortage


3rd October 2023 – (Tokyo) The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has initiated test runs of a self-driving bus, marking a significant step towards Japan’s pursuit of autonomous transportation solutions and driverless services. The introduction of the self-driving bus comes as a response to the ongoing shortage of bus drivers in the bustling Japanese capital.

The autonomous bus, capable of reaching speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour, made its debut on Monday as the tests commenced. It operates along a regular loop route, connecting the busy Shinjuku Station with two key metropolitan government buildings. With a limited seating capacity of just 18 passengers, the self-driving bus aims to provide a convenient and efficient mode of transportation.

Passengers interested in experiencing the self-driving journey must reserve their seats in advance through an online booking system. This reservation system ensures a seamless and organized boarding process for passengers.

The test runs of the self-driving bus are scheduled to continue until October 13. Throughout the week, the bus operates with 12 services running from 10am to 4pm, while a reduced schedule is implemented on weekends and holidays.

Officials from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government have expressed their intention to evaluate the performance of the self-driving bus in navigating areas characterised by heavy traffic. Simultaneously, they will assess the necessary infrastructure requirements for designated autonomous lanes, as reported by local media outlets.

While Japan is taking ambitious strides towards implementing groundbreaking transportation solutions, including level IV vehicles, analysts caution that fully driverless transit is still a considerable distance away for the country.

The ongoing test runs of the self-driving bus in Tokyo serve as a significant milestone in Japan’s exploration of autonomous public transportation. The results and insights gained from these trials will contribute to the development and refinement of future driverless services, as the country continues to address the challenges posed by the shortage of bus drivers.

It is clear that Japan’s journey towards fully autonomous transportation is a complex and ongoing process. However, with continued innovation and investment in the field, the vision of driverless services may eventually become a reality, revolutionising the way people travel and commute in Japan’s bustling cities.