ANA begins trials on driverless bus at Haneda Airport

Japan’s largest airline—All Nippon Airways (ANA)—is beginning its second stage of testing for an automatic, driver-less bus at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. If trials are successful, ANA plans to implement the autonomous bus technology by next year (2020). 

ANA is conducting trials with Aichi Steel, SB Drive Corp, Advanced Smart Mobility, NIPPO CORPORATION, and NEC Corporation. Together they will begin testing the autonomous bus in a series of trials running through January.

The test trial will be conducted with an autonomous driving technique, equivalent to Level 3*1, which will be limited to the restricted area of Haneda Airport, where aircraft and cargo vehicles are located. *1 Level 3 means the autonomous system is operating, but when the system is unable to respond correctly, a human driver in the vehicle can take over the driving.

Shigeru Hattori, senior Vice President of ANA, said: “We are constantly striving to move the industry forward. This autonomous bus will help ease the flow of traffic in the airport and help enhance the traveling experience for passengers. In addition to boosting convenience, the autonomous bus will also allow for safer travel within the airport and we will continue the tests until the technology reaches our high safety grade.”

The first phase of testing took place in February last year (2018) in partnership with SB Drive Corp. Further tests will also be carried out at Narita, Sendai, and Nagoya airports by other companies, in addition to ANA’s trials at Haneda. During testing, the bus will host an advanced control system called Dispatcher, which allows the operator to monitor progress in real time, taking control when necessary. The system also provides constant real-time feedback for the operator to use and to evaluate the interior and exterior of the vehicle at all times.

The driver-less bus will run with the help of magnetic trackers which are embedded into the ground, helping guide the bus along its route. On board sensors allow the bus to follow these marks, enabling the bus to travel smoothly, even if GPS signals are unavailable.