Major Japanese car manufacturers, including Toyota Motor and Mazda Motor, will equip their main models with automated driving technology by around 2022, the Asian business and news website Nikkei has learned.
With Japanese carmakers trailing U.S. and Chinese rivals, they see a need to quicken the pace of installing self-drive capability in their vehicles.
The Japanese automakers are initially installing capabilities at level 2 and above. This allows hands-free driving on highways, but still leaves the driver as the vehicle’s main operator.
According to the Tokyo-based Yano Research Institute, level 2 will be installed on 62% of self-driving cars by 2030.
Toyota will lead off with its flagship Crown model after an upgrade from 2022 to 2023 that will include an automated driving system with hands-free capability on the highway. The technology will then be gradually introduced on other models.
Currently only two models, Lexus’ high-end sedan and the fuel cell vehicle Mirai, are equipped with the technology. Toyota is considering installing self-driving functions on lower-priced vehicles such as the Corolla, as it confirms the availability of certain parts, including sensors that can detect people and objects.
Starting in 2022, Mazda will introduce level 2 or 3 automated driving functions to its medium-size and large sport utility vehicles. Subaru, meanwhile, plans to add functions such as hands-free driving on highways at speeds of up to 50 kph to all its cars sold worldwide, reports Nikkei.
But U.S. manufacturers have already pulled ahead. Tesla already includes level 2 on its models as standard equipment, and Waymyo, Alphabet’s self-driving unit, is developing level 4 and above technology. Level 4 offers a high level of automation but not full, while level 5 is fully automated.
In Japan, level 4 vehicles are not allowed to operate on public roads, but some regulations are likely to be relaxed. Most Japanese manufacturers are expected to test the reliability of level 2 before aiming higher, however.