Panasonic, Eiheiji Town Government and the Fukui Prefectural Government say they have jointly started a field test of an experimental autonomous electric vehicle on Eiheiji Mai-road in the temple town in western Japan.

The field test of Panasonic's autonomous driving EV commuter will continue to the end of March, 2019.

Eiheiji Mai-road is a walking trail spanning about six kilometres and created on the former rail line of the Eiheiji Line, once operated by Keifuku Electric Railroad.

The Fukui Prefectural and Eiheiji Town governments have been receiving subsidies from the national government for regional revitalisation, using the funds to improve the road and creating an environment for field testing the autonomous driving EV commuter.

The field test aims to verify how autonomous cars can be used effectively to cope with local issues and needs, such as offering public transport services once a rail line is abandoned for example.

So far, Panasonic has verified its autonomous driving technologies on an in-house driving test course (Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture) and the company premises in the Keihanna district (Seika-cho, Soraku-gun, Kyoto Prefecture), as well as the Kadoma district (Kadoma City, Osaka Prefecture).

This is the first time for Panasonic to test its autonomous driving system in an environment equivalent to a public road.

Field test plan:

Current field test (3 October to 17 November).

The autonomous driving EV commuter is deployed on Eiheiji Mai-road to test autonomous driving technologies and identify technical issues, such as the following:

  • Test operations such as positioning of the vehicle and camera detection performance in various environments (for example, where the vehicle is close to trees and houses or under viaducts)
  • Test obstacle avoidance and braking to prevent collision with pedestrians entering the road suddenly from the roadside
  • Test the operation of the vehicle management system using cloud servers
  • Field test in the next fiscal year (to be conducted on an irregular basis from April 2018 to March 2019)
  • The autonomous driving EV commuter will be deployed on the entirety of Eiheiji Mai-road to test the autonomous driving technologies and commercialise mobility services.

 In March this year, Eiheiji-Town was designated by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) as an "area to conduct field tests to evaluate last-mile mobility systems under the project to demonstrate social implementation of last-mile mobility systems using autonomous cars in designated spaces."

Tasks to be performed by each party in the field test:

  • Fukui Prefectural and Eiheiji Town governments: Improve Eiheiji Mai-road, communicate and coordinate with communities along Eiheiji Mai-road and relevant organisations, and identify issues
  • Panasonic: Evaluate the autonomous driving system (in-vehicle system) and server system and identify issues (for example, accuracy of the vehicle positioning, sensing, and recognition; driving stability)