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Meet Japan ’s practical take on the Self-Driving Bus

The Japanese automotive industry is one of the most prominent and largest industries in the world. Japan has been in the top three of the countries with most cars manufactured since the 1960s, surpassing Germany. After massive ramp-up by China in the 2000s and fluctuating U.S. output.Japanese investments helped grow the auto industry in many countries throughout the last few decades.

Yuki Saji, president and chief executive officer of SB Drive. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry together with SB Drive,Yahoo (Japan) ,SoftBank and Advanced Smart Mobility Co., Ltd. (“Advanced Smart Mobility”) have taken a technological course towards advancement of mobility in Japan.It’s not electric, and neither does it put on futuristic airs. Meet Japan’s practical take on the self-driving bus, courtesy of SB Drive, a subsidiary of telco company and technological frontier pusher SoftBank

“Japan’s aging population is putting the country on the front line of a public transportation crisis,” said Yuki Saji, 31, chief executive officer of SB Drive Corp., the SoftBank unit that’s leading the project. “There is an opportunity for a rapid introduction of this technology. Bus companies want to improve margins, local governments need to cut subsidies for money-losing routes and residents demand convenience.”

Mission for the Project

The mission behind this self driving project is to contribute to the solution of all problems related to transportation.This is going to enable people “Go where they want, whenever they want.”We want to create a world where all people can travel safely at an afforable cost, without restrictons.The underlying reasons for accidents, lack of attention and reckless driving, are directly correlated to the underlying social issues of the aging of drivers, and lack of human resources in the transportation industry.

SB Drive is a new mobility service powered by automated driving technology. SB Drive was established in April 2016 as a joint venture between SoftBank and Advanced Smart Mobility Co., Ltd. (“Advanced Smart Mobility”), a company researching and developing automated driving technologies.

SoftBank plans to sell the self-driving buses to cities and transit operators. It’s an opportunity to grab a piece of a broader market that’s projected to be worth as much as $77 billion by 2035.

“A number of very complex technologies have to come together to enable autonomous driving,” said Jeremy Carlson, an analyst at IHS Markit who covers the sector. “That means smaller and often newer companies can carve out a niche of highly specialized expertise.”

Under a cooperative framework with SoftBank, Advanced Smart Mobility, Yahoo! JAPAN and others, SB Drive has been conducting social trials and testing the commercial viability of fixed-route bus type community public transportation and large truck convoy-based trunk line freight transportation systems that utilize self-driving technologies.

Currently SB Drive has smart mobility partnership agreements with four municipalities in Japan, including Kitakyushu City and Yazu Town in Tottori Prefecture. In the latter half of fiscal 2018, SB Drive is planning to conduct fully autonomous driving trials on public roads.

Investment Overview

(1) Investment amounts

Yahoo! JAPAN: approx. JPY 490 million, SoftBank: approx. JPY 190 million (cumulative investment of approx. 510 million)

(2) Date of transaction

March 17, 2017

(3) Shareholder ratios after capital increase

SoftBank: 51.1%, Yahoo! JAPAN: 48.6%, Advanced Smart Mobility: 0.3%

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