ANA starts testing autonomous bus operation at Haneda Airport


ANA Holdings Inc., the operator of All Nippon Airways Co., said Wednesday it has started testing a semi-autonomous bus that will transport passengers and staff working at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.

The company will conduct the test with the electric bus capable of carrying 57 passengers on a 1.9-kilometer route through the end of this month, aiming to start trial operation later in the year.

The vehicle, with level-3 automation, allows drivers to turn their attention away from driving and engage in different tasks. The 12-meter-long bus is made by China’s BYD Co.

“As the Tokyo Olympics are approaching, we hope more passengers from around the world will see our latest technology,” ANA Senior Executive Vice President Shinzo Shimizu said in a ceremony at the airport.

In 2018, the number of passengers who arrived at and departed from the airport increased 2.1 percent to 85 million, according to Japan Airport Terminal Co. which manages the Haneda Airport facilities.

The Japanese government has been embarking on attracting foreign tourists to enhance its economy and cultural presence abroad in recent years, with international visitors to the country rising 2.2 percent to a record 31.88 million last year, according to government data.

Promoting technological innovations such as electric-powered autonomous transportation is an urgent task for the aviation industry as it faces a severe labor crunch and pressure to lower greenhouse gas emissions, ANA said.

In the near future, ANA hopes to introduce level-4 autonomous vehicles, which do not require a driver, and other self-driving vehicles for its ground operations, it said.

At Chubu Airport in central Japan, a joint venture set up by Marubeni Corp. and ZMP Inc. aims to introduce a small-sized autonomous bus to transport passengers later this year.



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