Urbanization cannot be stopped but causes problems
According to the United Nation’s report, 55% of the world’s population lived in 2018 and the number is expected be 68% by 2050. The population shift from rural area to urban are is not a new idea, but the trend is not changed but accelerated. As a result, urbanization causes problems around us, and one of them is scarcity of human drivers in rural area. In addition to this, the population of developed countries is ageing faster than before so that the scarcity is accelerating as well. However, public transportation is important infrastructure in the areas and how do we solve it? From another viewpoint from economy, trains do not work in rural areas. Thus, buses are important social infrastructure there, especially in Japan. An autonomous driving bus is a possible solution, but there are still rooms to improve. We have to do some experiments to realize autonomous driving buses in rural areas.
NEC, Gunma University and other players start the trial
Gunma prefecture, which is the northern part of Tokyo, is rural area in Japan and the population is actually decreasing. In early 2000s, the number is more than 2 million, but it is around 1.92 million now and expected to be about 1.55 million by 2045. This decline is huge, but there will be more than 1.5 million in 2045 at the same time. It is really difficult to increase or even keep the population, but the prefecture has to maintain its infrastructure for current generations as well as future generations.
NEC Corporation, which is a Japanese multinational information technology and electronics company and has more than 110 thousands employee in 2020, tackles this challenge with other Japanese companies and regional stakeholders.
When it comes to autonomous driving, 5G networks can give several technological advancements. First of all, autonomous driving needs lots of big data from automobiles, cities and roads. In other words, autonomous vehicles have to detect human beings, other objects, other vehicles, road conditions, weather conditions and traffic system based on the data. Vehicles not only need mega data but also gather them timely. It means that past data helps them predict, but present data are necessary. Therefore, networks that enable cars to gather enough data without delay is indispensable.
Some characteristics of 5G networks are high speed, wide-bandwidth data transmission and low latency, and they match with prerequisite above. Since safety is also a big issue related to autonomous driving, experiments in autonomous driving is still going. Both population decline and urbanization in Japan cannot be stopped so that more experiments of autonomous driving like NEC are demanded. Besides this, we have to realize autonomous driving, and we should keep the fact that experiments are not the solution but just prerequisite in our mind.