FutureStructure

2020 Emerges as the Big Target for Driverless Cars

A new business coalition is shooting to prepare Tokyo — the world's largest metropolitan area — for self-driving cars by the time of the next Summer Olympic Games.

by / September 13, 2016
A test driver lets a Nissan autonomous vehicle swerve to avoid a dummy pedestrian. Screenshot/Nissan

The early 2020s are more and more becoming the firm target for mass introduction of self-driving cars.

After a slew of timeline announcements from various companies in the past few months, a coalition of 15 businesses has announced a project aimed at getting Tokyo ready to host self-driving cars by the time the city hosts the next Summer Olympic Games in 2020. The group, which includes Mitsubishi Electric and Toyota, wants to create high-precision maps that will allow automated cars to navigate better, according to the Japan Times.

The goal is to achieve an as-of-yet unheard of level of detail — the width of traffic lanes, the angles roads are sloped at, the locations of critical infrastructure such as traffic lights. The collaborative, called Dynamic Map Planning Co., wants measurements to be accurate within 10 centimeters. That’s about 20 times as precise as current technology, according to the Times.

There will likely be several cars available to take advantage of that map by then that aren’t fully deployed right now. The Tesla Model 3, set to hit the road in 2017, will come standard with an ever-changing semi-autonomous system called Autopilot. Uber is in the midst of rolling out self-driving Volvos in downtown Pittsburgh as part of its ride-hailing service. Its biggest rival, Lyft, has partnered with General Motors to do something similar next year. Ford Motor Co. has promised a driverless car — without a steering wheel, even — by 2021.

All that has happened since April. And it’s not all that’s happened.