Driverless terminal bus goes on test run at Tokyo's Haneda airport
Japan Times -- Jan 23
A minibus decorated with All Nippon Airways Co.’s signature blue and white logo motors across the tarmac at Tokyo’s Haneda airport. From the outside, it looks like an ordinary bus, with a person sitting in the driver’s seat — except no one is really operating the vehicle.

Reporters got a glimpse Tuesday of an autonomous airport bus experiment in progress. It is part of Japan’s first series of experiments on automatic vehicle-control systems designed to carry passengers within an airport’s restricted zone.

The project at Haneda is being developed by six companies, including ANA, NEC Corp. and Aichi Steel Corp.

The move to go autonomous comes at a time when Japan is grappling with a shrinking labor force amid rising tourist numbers from abroad.

As more flights are expected to arrive at and depart from Haneda in the coming years, the goal is to effectively and efficiently carry out operations for the ground crew, said Tadakatsu Yamaguchi, an ANA official.

Those tasks include moving passengers between aircraft and terminals as well as unloading and loading their luggage.

“As widely reported in the media, our industry regards the lack of drivers as an important issue,” Yamaguchi said. “Through automation, we hope to increase a vehicle’s operation time, enhance vehicle coordination and reduce the labor of bus drivers.”

The goal is to have automated transportation in at least one Japanese airport by 2020, the year Tokyo will host the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, according to transport ministry official Haruka Hasegawa.

At this stage in the experiment, a driver is always onboard to ensure safety. Officials say they eventually hope the minibus will be driverless.

早ければ2020年に自動運転バスが導入されます。 羽田空港ではターミナルと駐機場を結ぶ自動運転バスの実証実験が行われました。ルートの地面には磁石が埋め込まれていて、自動で走行する仕組みです。今回、ドライバーは乗っていますが、ハンドル操作は行いませんでした。
News sources: Japan Times, ANNnewsCH
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