SoftBank’s Japanese self-driving bus plan receives Yahoo support

24 Mar 2017

Tokyo. Image: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Autonomous vehicles are motoring into view, and SoftBank is not willing to miss out on the opportunity. Yahoo Japan has backed its novel bus project.

Yahoo Japan has invested about $4.5m into SoftBank’s autonomous bus business SB Drive, gaining just short of a majority share and providing the project with serious support.

Yahoo Japan’s engineers, as well as expertise in the likes of weather, location and information will presumably arm the project with a far likelier chance of success.

According to Nikkei, the company also thinks its big data capabilities will help with the abundance of sensors needed to operate a grand bus network.

“It can analyse the masses of data generated by sensors installed around town to gauge such variables as foot traffic,” reads the report. “The goal is to use the information to decide on the number of buses and the best routes.”

This latter point is key to the whole SB Drive programme, which aims to smarten up the bus network around rural areas, helping to satisfy Japan’s ageing population.

The company is aiming to conduct tests on public roads next year with the eventual target of a commercial service by 2020.

The push for autonomous transport is being felt all over the world, with bus and shuttle project springing up in numerous countries.

In January, a trial for a fully autonomous shuttle bus service in Nevada was unveiled, with Navya, the company making the buses, and Keolis, a fleet logistics provider, behind the move.

Germany’s truck projects, South Korea’s super-fast autonomous train tests and Airbus’s outlandish ‘air taxis’ are other attempts to put the transport industry at the very cutting edge of modern technology.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic