Auto pilot vehicles could boost Japan’s auto market due to the country’s most developed demographic niche: the elderly.
According to the executives from automakers including General Motors and Toyota, around 90 percent of traffic accidents are caused by human error. While Japan has the fastest aging population in all the developed countries, elderly drivers can easily become a danger not only to the others, but to themselves as well, the international press comments.
“Seniors are often regarded as the victims of traffic accidents, Moritaka Yoshida, managing officer and chief safety technology officer at Toyota, said this month as the company announced plans for automated-driving systems. ‘‘However, recently an increasing number of accidents are caused by senior drivers,” he added.
In Japan, 4,411 people died on the road last year, and more than half, or 2,264, were 65 or older, according to data from the National Police Agency.
“Driver-assistance and autonomous-driving technologies will definitely help stimulate demand among the elderly by assuring them driving can be very safe,” Zhou Lei, a senior manager and auto-industry consultant at Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting Co. in Tokyo, said. “What is happening in Japan will also occur in the U.S. and especially emerging countries like China, and the demand will be huge.”
Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker, said this month that in 2015 it will unveil cars that communicate with each other to avoid collisions, while Nissan, second-largest automaker in Japan, said it received a permit to test auto pilot vehicles on the public roads in Japan.
“Autonomous driving could be very helpful to people who have physical challenges, or the elderly,” Mitsuhiko Yamashita, executive vice president of Nissan, said.
In the mean time, Detroit-based GM, the largest U.S. carmaker, is planning vehicles by 2020 that will be able to drive themselves on controlled-access highways.