Mihoko Ishii, Holland Innovation Network Tokyo (Innovatie Attaché Netwerk Tokio).
May 2019, original published on the RVO site.
Please click the picture for the pdf-version. Japan article is page 36-39.
Japan: Building a strong case for tomorrow
In 2019, the Japanese government published two key policy papers: an Integrated Innovation Strategy, and related AI Strategy, which identified the technology areas that will largely define the new automotive era as Connected, Automated, Shared and Electric (CASE).
Backing its vision
To address these areas and stimulate research activity, in December Japan launched its AI Research Network. This will involve the country’s three main AI institutes: AIST (National Institute of the Advanced Industrial Science & Technology), RIKEN (Institute of Physical & Chemical Research) and NICT (National Institute of Information & Communications Technology) working together to ensure a more ‘all-Japanese’ approach to AI R&D, but at the same time developing more collaborations with foreign AI research institutes and universities.
Some companies are adopting English as their working language, recognizing the need to recruit globally to be a serious AI player
The government is certainly backing its commitment financially. In December, Prime Minister Abe earmarked nearly €0.9 billion for post-5G (6G) technologies, including advanced automotive technologies, as part of an upcoming €9 billion budget for development work in digital technologies, including AI and 5G.
The government is also supporting initiatives to address the shortage of top-level AI and AV personnel, such as the Japan Automotive AI Challenge, designed to attract
AI people from other sectors and countries. The government also launched a Smart Mobility Challenge to stimulate new mobility services using IoT and AI in local
areas. 28 projects have been selected to investigate the feasibility of a shift towards CASE by 2030.
Private and public
Japan drives AI research via both the private and public sectors. For example, AIST’s cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence Research Center is developing a multi-scale framework that integrates geospatial data from diverse mobile sources (satellites, aircraft, drones, etc.) to create more accurate real-time 3D maps that give AVs
While the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) was established in 2016 for the transition to AI-powered mobility services. TRI recently launched its second €90 million ‘Toyota AI Ventures’ fund for AI, autonomy and mobility technologies. The first edition is supporting 19 companies to further develop their concepts.
In 2018, TRI-Advanced Development (TRI-AD) was launched with Aishin Seiki and Denso to further develop TRI research outcomes. Interestingly, TRI-AD has broken
with normal Japanese business practice and uses English as its working language, reflecting the need to recruit globally if you wish to be a serious player in AI.
Japanese companies target CES
Sony and Toyota both unveiled interesting projects at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Sony launched its Vision-S electric concept car. Developed with partners like Bosch, BlackBerry and Magna, it shows that traditional automotive companies will have no monopoly when it comes to AV. The car also leverages Sony’s strengths. It has,
for example, a 360O audio system and panoramic screen for driving data and entertainment, as well as using Sony’s AI software, telecoms and cloud
technologies to enhance safety and reliability.
Toyota announced plans for Woven City, a smart city at the foot of Mt. Fuji. From 2021, some 2,000 Toyota employee family members will live and work in this
175-acre ‘living laboratory’. The interaction of new technologies in areas like robotics, AV and smart homes will be tested in a real-world environment in which people, buildings, vehicles, etc. are connected with sensors and data to create an ideal testing
environment. Three types of roads will be ‘woven’ through the city, one of which dedicated to highspeed, fully-automated, zero-emission cars. Toyota is looking for business partners for the project.