By Henry Wasung

“The information and communication technology (IT) revolution is in essence a revolution of sovereignty over information” – Japan’s New Strategy in Information and Communications Technology.

Japan is facing interesting transport challenges. Of course every country in world is facing transport challenges especially if you consult those working in the transport industry and perhaps Japan’s challenges like those in other developed countries cannot compare in sheer scale with developing countries where urbanisation is occurring at an unprecedented rate. However Japan does have a declining yet ever more urbanised population in a country with few natural resources and thus especially following on from the earthquake in March 2011 a vested interest in energy diversification and management. So perhaps “interesting” is the mot juste.

A technologically advanced country with a strong manufacturing base and a coherent and resilient society Japan has bounced back from the earthquake and subsequent tsunami although much has changed.

Perhaps the most prominent change is the fact that all of Japan’s nuclear power plants were shut down due to widespread public fears following the failure of cooling systems in the Fukushima nuclear power plant – although some have restarted as of July 2012. However Japan generated 30% of its electricity through nuclear power so clearly this has had a huge effect giving rise at one point to speculation that there would be rolling “brown-outs” – thankfully avoided.

Energy was first on the list of transport challenges faced by Japan according to Hajime Amano President of ITS Japan who notes “in addition to the reduction of CO2 emissions diversification of energy sources and supply management are immediate challenges”. Mr Amano went on to underline that the electrification of vehicles poses additional challenges in this regard; “cars are no longer simple consumers of energy but an integral part of smart grid systems”.

This is an interesting insight as the full scale electrification of all vehicles would if all other factors remain the same actually decrease energy diversity – the switch from petrol or diesel to electricity simply means that more electricity has to be produced at source. This may well be good for a number of reasons not least city air quality and noise levels but would be an additional – albeit manageable – factor in energy supply.

Safety is second on Mr Amano’s list of transport challenges which bring a wry smile to Amaury Cornelis’ face. Mr Cornelis project manager at ERTICO having lived in Japan for several years through his time at Toyota was kind enough to give his insights and anecdotes regarding transport ITS and Japan for this article. Mr Cornelis stressed the uniqueness of many of the safety related regulations to be found in Japan including the fact that every car sold there must have an electronic speed limiter albeit at a generous 180kph or the mandatory third mirror for vans MPVs and SUVs. Logically drink driving is a strict no-no.

On the other hand this is far from a paradox as Mr Cornelis goes on to explain that certainly in comparison with many European countries Japan prioritises safety with companies organising road safety meetings and trainings on a frequent basis and road signs exhorting the driver to drive in a conscientious manner. So it should come as no surprise that even with a good record in road safety Mr Amano brings our attention to it.

Specifically Mr Amano acknowledging the success in continually bringing down the number of fatalities identifies vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists especially the elderly) as an area for action as they make up about half of road casualties. “Market penetration of already available safety technologies is important to bring the full benefit to society” underlines Mr Amano who further highlighted that the scope of cooperative services must be expanded to include people as only in this way could VRUs – who by definition are not in connected cars – can benefit from the proven potential of these services. The promotional film for the 2013 ITS World Congress to be held in Tokyo gives some nice examples of the latter.

An interesting consequence also to be found elsewhere in the developed world of urbanisation especially to Tokyo and an aging population is third on Mr Amano’s list under the title “enhanced mobility”. What does this mean? The depopulation and increased age of Japan’s rural communities mean that “…public transport operators stop services one route after another because of financial difficulties.” This has a downward spiral effect for those communities and seriously affects the standard of living of their remaining populace who may have other transport limitations.

But Mr Amano is upbeat. “With new modes of transport such as on-demand bus services and Personal Mobility Vehicles coupled with efficient management of the multimodal network we will be able to provide all the population with decent and sustainable means of transport for a better quality of life and the revitalisation of those communities.

Fourth on Mr Amano’s list is another direct consequence of the March 2011 earthquake that of resilient transport chains. The whole world had another wake-up call about the dangers in relying on just-in-time delivery and supplier concentration although of course Japan was most affected. Mr Amano emphasises that “rebuilding global supply chains… will also strengthen agile global operations to respond to top radical fluctuations of the global market. Dependable and efficient transport networks is one of the key factors”.

In this regard Mr Amano also highlighted the role that ERTICO and ITS Japan has to play. “ITS is the key technology to effectively and efficiently manage such global systems and international harmonisation is a very essential enzyme for the systems to evolve.  Cooperation between ERTICO and ITS Japan will play substantial roles to sustain such development.”

The Japanese government is also responding to these challenges set out in a New Strategy in Information and Communications Technology on 11 May 2010 followed by its roadmap on 22 June 2010. Mr Amano explains and emphasises that “…under the strategy national projects on ITS have been initiated targeting deployment around 2014 in the following areas:

  • cooperative driving safety support systems
  • greening the transport of people and goods
  • consolidating and distributing wide-area road traffic information
  • advancing traffic control technology”

Japan has been quick to deploy ITS technologies. Mr Amano highlights the relatively quick development of standards and private sector cooperation as key factors thanks to the uniform nature of Japanese society. In Europe consensus building takes longer as befitting of a club of 27 sovereign countries.

“We are working hard on connected vehicle systems using vehicle-to-infrastructure communication and vehicle-to-vehicle communication. The first phase of deployment was completed in 2010 with about 1600 roadside antennas installed along the highways. To further expand the applications including congestion mitigation government and industries are conducting field evaluation tests” explains Mr Amano.

An integrated ITS information service platform is also being developed drawing on the lessons learnt in the Great East Japan Earthquake.

“We are building regional information centres in some model cities. In addition to traffic management centres a platform is being set up where other information such as weather public transport and infrastructure status is also shared on a cloud network system. Daily services are provided by both public sector and private sector. Dynamic route guidance for shortest time or lowest energy consumption promotion of local events and other local community services are anticipated. In an emergency the information network is turned into crisis management mode. Local government takes control to deliver evacuation orders guidance to shelters information on safety of community members and relief goods supplies” explains Mr Amano.

For more information on the benefits of ERTICO-ITS Japan cooperation please contact Vincent Blervaque.

Useful links:
New Strategy in Information and Communications Technology
Memorandum of Cooperation on “Cooperative Systems in the Field of Intelligent Transport Systems” EU-Japan 9 June 2011 at the European ITS Congress Lyon

ITS World Congress 2013 – Tokyo

ITS enters a new stage: technological evolution helps create safe comfortable sustainable societies
All over the world intelligent transport systems (ITS) including car navigation systems electronic toll collection (ETC) and traffic information services have become familiar and essential aids to transportation and the movement of people. By actively utilising ITS and databases and integrating them with peripheral systems and technologies society is now entering a new stage of ITS applications that go beyond the transportation field to offer a wider range of services.

The theme for the 20th ITS World Congress Tokyo 2013 is “Open ITS to the Next.” While retaining a focus on resolving transport problems this theme aptly conveys the expansion of next-generation ITS into new domains. We hope to welcome as many participants as possible from emerging countries in Asia and elsewhere which face a growing array of transport issues.

“The ITS World Congress 2013 in Tokyo is not a Japanese world congress but an Asia-Pacific world congress. Transport network investment Decision makers from all the Asia-Pacific member counties and regions will get together to share challenges and ITS visions to maintain the growth of their society which is driving the world economy. I would like to strongly encourage our European colleagues to join and share your technologies and experiences with participants from rapidly growing countries.” Hajime Amano President of ITS Japan

Link to original Article

Original Publication Date: Tue 24 Jul 2012