back to article Japan to draw up routes for roads dedicated to robot trucks

Usually when a government announces it's drawing up a digitalization roadmap, it's being metaphorical. In Japan's case, it's quite literal: roadways dedicated to autonomous vehicles handling logistics-related traffic will be mapped out. The idea was raised yesterday by prime minister Fumio Kishida at Japan's fifth Digital …

  1. Yorick Hunt Silver badge
    WTF?

    Because railways are just too old-hat?

    1. claimed Silver badge

      Thing about roads is you can do crazy stuff like intersections and slip roads, having lorries peel off from a main trunk is very useful for regional delivery. You’d also still need an automated train driver, and it’s a lot harder to stop a train going at 100 mph than a lorry, if there are obstructions etc (small ones you can even go around)

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Meh

        You can do intersections and stuff like that on trains as well, and Japan doesn't have much of a problem with obstructions on railway tracks.

        Also, you can go a *lot* faster than 100mph on a train.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Trains are optimised for high-volume hub-to-hub. All the goods are in cars that can only go one place - wherever the locomotive is going, so it only makes economic sense for places handling large volumes of goods, ie regional hubs. Road transport allows smaller discrete units of transport to smaller local hubs. Roads dedicated to self-driving trucks are actually a great idea for this, since it makes it much easier for non-human drivers to navigate. It also removes all the trailer rigs and big trucks from highways which would greatly free up traffic (in my experience a huge percentage of traffic is caused by slower cars overtaking even slower trucks, or trucks overtaking each other)

          Besides the regional hubs that are connected to each other by self-driving trains, and regional hubs connected to local hubs by self-driving trucks, you can get the last few miles driven on normal roads in smaller vans by human drivers.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            or a hyperloop

            1. Roj Blake Silver badge

              Or a genuine bona-fide electrified six-car monorail!

        2. Watashi

          Japan does not do freight by train

          Japan doesn't really use rail to transport freight and to start doing so would require a complete reworking of Japan's whole freight transport processes. Using road for automated freight transport is a much easier change than starting to use automated trains for Japan (assuming the technology works properly) even if it proves to be more expensive and less energy efficient than rail in the long run.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rail_transport_in_Japan

          1. munnoch Bronze badge

            Re: Japan does not do freight by train

            I’m very surprised by that statistic.

            Freight trains are a very common sight in Japan and there are even dedicated freight lines around some urban areas to guarantee paths.

            Most freight is carried in very short containers that are transferred to road transport at hubs. International sized containers are much less common. So you’d think that in theory a business that needs to move a modest amount of stuff should be able to book a door to door service quite easily. Whether it’s sold that way is a different question.

            That said there is a lot of long distance road freight particularly overnight. Given that most expressways are 2 lane this can make for very frustrating driving conditions for cars.

            The biggest obstacle in Japan is finding the space for more transport arteries. Hence why the most recent bullet train lines run mostly in tunnels built at eye watering cost…

  2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Presumably, vehicles will switch between self-driving and human driver. In science fiction novel "Coils" (1982) by Roger Zelazny and Fred Saberhagen, we see a futuristic truck design with a compartment for a driver to sleep in. Which they do in real life, but usually not while the vehicle is going somewhere.

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