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Autonomous driving

Autonomous driving technologies

JARI is engaged in research and development work on control technologies for autonomous driving and vehicle platooning. Over a five-year period from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2012, JARI carried out R&D activities on autonomous driving and vehicle platooning technologies under the Energy-saving ITS Initiative. This project was commissioned by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) of Japan for the purpose of promoting energy-saving measures in the transport sector. JARI served as the coordinator of the cooperative research undertaken by 15 organizations in government, industry and academia. This project succeeded in developing autonomous driving and vehicle platooning technologies for operating four trucks with an intervehicle spacing of 4 meters and traveling at a speed of 80 km/h. 

Experimental vehicle system

Platoon driving test scene

The autonomous driving and vehicle platooning technologies developed in the Energy-saving ITS Initiative for use on expressways are expected to be implemented as advanced next-generation driver assistance systems or for autonomous driving that includes ordinary roads. To accomplish that, JARI is working in particular to enhance the following technologies.

Driving environment recognition technology


In the Energy-saving ITS Initiative, camera and radar technologies were applied to develop a system for recognizing the driving lane and a system for detecting and avoiding obstacles on the road. Driving environment recognition technologies that remain to be developed include an all-weather system for recognizing the driving lane even under adverse weather conditions such as on snow-covered roads and a system for recognizing vehicles approaching from the rear when executing lane changes.

Moreover, the following technologies are among those needed to facilitate autonomous driving on ordinary roads: a technology for recognizing traffic signals and road signs, a technology for recognizing pedestrians and bicyclists, and also a danger prediction technology that works in tandem with prior experience (database) to sense potential hazards on the road in the same way that smart drivers do.

Driver’s condition recognition technology


The development of autonomous driving technologies is also proceeding in Europe and the U.S., but fully automated driving that leaves all the driving tasks to the system involves the question of responsibility in the event of an accident. For that reason, it is generally held that autonomous driving should first be partially implemented under conditions where entrusting driving tasks to the system actually involves less risk. Such conditions include situations where the driver suddenly becomes incapacitated and is unable to drive or where there is an increased risk of an accident because the driver is drowsy.  

One technology that is needed in such situations is a means of recognizing the driver’s condition. Various types of techniques have so far been developed for detecting drowsy driving, but it is necessary to develop some technology for comprehensively recognizing a broader range of driver workloads and health conditions.


Highly reliable technologies


The autonomous driving and vehicle platooning technologies developed in the Energy-saving ITS Initiative provide high levels of safety and security, having been designed with practical use in mind. Specifically, the fundamental subsystems were made redundant so that if one system should fail, the other system has the complementary functionality to ensure safe operation. In addition, each electronic control unit (ECU) incorporates a fail-safe mechanism that always operates on the safe side even if a failure should occur.

As driver assistance systems become more sophisticated with the aim of facilitating autonomous driving, the increased system complexity will require that the reliability of the advanced technologies used be raised to even higher levels. JARI is engaged in various activities to enhance reliability further, including development of the ISO 26262 standard for the functional safety of automotive electronic systems and promoting the effective application of tools like fault tree analysis (FTA) and failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA), among others.

Fail-safe ECU

Advanced driver assistance systems

In the Energy-saving ITS Initiative, the technologies of a cooperative adaptive cruise control (CACC) system using intervehicle communication were developed with the cooperation of four large truck manufacturers in Japan. The aim here was to achieve early deployment of longitudinal vehicle control technology by separating it from the other technologies. There are strong expectations for the deployment of the CACC system because it can deliver greater benefits with respect to safety, fuel economy improvement and smooth traffic flows, compared with conventional adaptive cruise control (ACC).

In addition, research and development work is now under way on a steering-assist system for application to maintenance vehicles used in cleaning the lighting equipment inside expressway tunnels. The aim of this system is to speed up the cleaning operation. This project focuses only on lateral vehicle control technology, which can provide driver support for expressway maintenance vehicles, and is being carried out in cooperation with the expressway companies in Japan.

Development of a steering-assist system for vehicles used in cleaning expressway tunnel lighting equipment

New traffic systems

BRT(Bus Rapid Transit)

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is the general name of fast transit systems using exclusive bus lanes. There are well-known examples in other countries of BRT systems that transport large numbers of passengers quickly, whereas in Japan there are examples of single driver-operated buses running on a dedicated road built over a discontinued railway line in depopulated areas.

The application of autonomous driving and vehicle platooning technologies to these buses, together with the installation of a lateral control system, would enable safe vehicle operation at higher driving speeds on a single lane built on a narrow former railway line. In addition, the introduction of longitudinal control for vehicle platooning that makes effective use of dedicated roadways would also facilitate the platooning of unmanned following vehicles connected electronically during morning and evening rush hours. In the suburbs, the platoons could then be separated for single vehicle operation in different directions. Because such a system could also be deployed in other countries in addition to Japan, studies are being conducted on the various aspects involved.

BRT(Bus Rapid Transit:バス高速輸送システム)
Bus Rapid Transit system

New traffic systems using ultra-compact means of mobility


While autonomous driving on ordinary roads will not likely be feasible for the time being, it could be achieved relatively soon by creating spaces where safe vehicle operation can be assured such as in limited areas designed in cooperation with city planning.

The application of autonomous driving and vehicle platooning technologies to ultra-compact means of mobility would facilitate platooning on dedicated roadways, with the lead vehicle operated manually and the following cars driven automatically. Autonomous driving at low speed in limited areas and automated parking would also be possible. Such a system could be one solution for ensuring the mobility of senior citizens, which will be an increasingly important issue in the coming years. JARI is working on proposals for such new traffic systems.

For example, ensuring a means of mobility for senior citizens and others in regional cities is a growing issue owing to a lack of public transportation systems. As Japan’s population continues to grow older, it is expected to accelerate this tendency all the more. Therefore, JARI proposes using the benefits obtainable with Energy-saving ITS technologies to construct the infrastructure for maintaining senior citizens’ ability to participate in society in diverse situations. For example, the platooning of ultra-compact EVs and autonomous driving in limited areas would support the mobility of senior citizens and other mobility-challenged individuals in regional cities and depopulated areas and help to protect them, among other benefits.


Situations envisioned for their use include the following:

  • Providing mobility for senior citizens via ultra-compact commuter cars by utilizing the features of EVs.
  • Using EVs and ultra-compact cars as alternatives to public transportation in regional cities.
  • Supporting senior citizens’ participation in society by ensuring their mobility through the use of low-speed, self-driving EVs.
  • Eliminating the mobility issues facing people who have difficulty going shopping or to the hospital in depopulated areas and in model city revitalization areas in the region devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Area with daily life infrastructure

Ultra-compact means of mobility