Japan rolls out self-driving truck caravans

Whether it's from Toyota or Google, it's clear that self-driving cars are inevitable. Companies in the United States are working on ways to create invisible chauffeurs for individual commuters, but Japan is focusing on a similar solution geared more toward industrial matters.

Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) has announced the results of a successful range of tests of self-driving trucks. The tests involved four trucks, the lead truck driven by a person, with three other autonomous vehicles following closely, forming a tightly-packed robotic caravan with a human in charge. Equipped with roof-mounted cameras and radar, the robotrucks, each about 13 feet apart from the others, were able to travel at up to  50 miles per hour, operating under a system called Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control.

According to the researchers, the caravan style of precise multi-vehicle travel allows for significantly lower energy consumption, and could increase the efficiency of shipping throughout Japan in the very near future. However, while testing indicates that the trucks are ready to be safely used on Japan's highways right now, the researchers say that there are still some legal and psychological barriers against having driverless vehicles on the road. This likely means that it may still be some time before robotic vehicles hit the Japanese streets, although it may still happen in Japan before it does in the United States.


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