The Japanese government plans to expand the use of autonomous driving vehicles to more than 40 locations around the country by 2025 as its looks to popularise advanced mobility services, according to local reports.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said it planned to increase the use of Level 4 autonomous driving, which allows vehicles to operate without a driver, in the country under its Road to the L4 project

The programme will include public demonstrations of the technology to promote acceptance and understanding, as the government looks to revitalise rural communities where an increasing number of elderly people are giving up driving. A ministry spokesperson said: “Many people including the elderly don’t have ways to get around in rural areas. If there are circular autonomous bus services, they would be able to go shopping and have outings.”

The government is providing grants worth a total of JPY6bn (US$55m) this year to companies looking to develop autonomous-driving services, including for its L4 project.

While companies such as Toyota, Honda and NEC are developing and testing highly autonomous vehicles, this will be the first government-sponsored Level 4 programme which also has the goal of ensuring vehicles can operate safely and effectively in real road conditions.

Honda announced a new AV testing programme yesterday.

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