SoftBank has announced that it has been conducting field tests in the Takeshiba area of Minato-ku, Tokyo since January 2023. These tests will verify driving route design, AI remote monitoring and other tasks as part of a combined effort to achieve fully autonomous driving operations. Ultimately, SoftBank is looking to realize the early implementation of a sustainable autonomous driving service for Japanese consumers.

SoftBank’s tests follow the Japanese government’s announcement that an amended Road Traffic Act is to be enacted in April 2023, which will allow for L4 autonomous vehicles to operate on public roads. Under the revised act, operators will be required to appoint autonomous driving operation supervisors that handle operations and emergency responses when driving under specific conditions. – responding either in the vehicle or remotely.

To achieve its goal of launching a new autonomous driving service for Japan, SoftBank is conducting research and development on remote operations across several areas. It is, for example, developing an AI-powered remote monitoring system that can automatically acquire and edit necessary information for the monitor to respond. The company confirmed that it is already conducting verification tests utilizing this AI system.

SoftBank is also developing an operation support system that incorporates multiple functions, leveraging sensing technologies to automatically analyze the situation inside a vehicle to detect human presence or when a person falls. If such an incident is detected, the system will then provide voice guidance and coordinate with remote monitors based on the results of its analysis. SoftBank has said that it will continue to develop these systems and eventually integrate them with the AI-powered remote monitoring system for various MaaS (Mobility as a Service) use cases, such as taxis and small microbuses. Through the utilization of a Digital Twin virtual space, accident data, traffic data, and pedestrian flow data, SoftBank will continue to efficiently analyze driving routes through simulations. Here, it will also verify the technology for the automatic calculation of optimal driving routes.

The autonomous driving operation system utilized in SoftBank’s field tests is the ADS (Autonomous Driving System) provided by May Mobility. Based on the data obtained from the system, SoftBank will work with May Mobility to develop and verify functions for autonomous driving operation management, and technical requirements for autonomous driving.