All Nippon Airways Co Ltd (ANA), the largest airline in Japan by revenue and passenger numbers, began trials of an autonomous electric bus at the Haneda International Airport (Haneda Airport) in Tokyo, Japan. In collaboration with SB Drive, BYD, and Advanced Smart Mobility, the test run of the autonomous vehicle was carried out from 22 to 31 January.
The demonstration was conducted to determine a means of transportation for general customers and airport staff within the terminal. The self-driving vehicle was set to navigate itself repeatedly via the same 1.9km route in the restricted area north of Haneda Airport Terminal 2. The route connecting the north and south sides was based on the BYD’s large 57-seater EV bus, K9RA. The test operation was also achieved by using an autonomous driving bus that was modified by Advanced Smart Mobility.
SB Drive, a subsidiary that was founded in 2016 under SoftBank Corp to develop autonomous vehicle technology for public transport, partnered up with ANA two years ago to run driverless bus trials, where the former provided the advanced “Dispatcher” technology designed to detect obstacles in close proximity. For the purpose of preventing any unwanted accidents and the like, the trial K9RA bus at Haneda Airport was equipped with the Dispatcher. The function of this technology allowed for the trial vehicle to detect passengers’ departure before sitting and any movement inside the vehicle while driving, as well as to alert nearby observers and passengers to perform remote monitoring of the bus. Additionally, the Dispatcher allows the remote supervisor to check departure and arrival information from the tour operator and start the autonomous vehicle from the linked smartphone app.
From this demonstration, the vehicle would be assessed on its conditional automation performance with minimum human monitoring. Based on the results of the trial, ANA will decide whether to proceed with the implementation of autonomous transportation at the airport by the end of 2020.
Shinzo Shimizu, Senior Executive Vice President of ANA: “ANA is committed to actively embracing the most innovative technology to improve all aspects of the passenger travel experience. Once fully implemented, the autonomous electric bus will allow us to provide a more convenient transit experience for our passengers while also improving efficiency for our airport staff. As sustainability has always been a priority for ANA, we will continue looking for opportunities to make our products and services more eco-friendly.”