Nishi Nippon Railroad Co., Ltd. and Mitsubishi Corporation To Commence Commercial AI-Controlled Bus Transit Services in Fukuoka, Japan
Fukuoka Prefecture March 13, 2019; Together with Nishi-Nippon Railroad Co. Ltd. (NNR), Mitsubishi Corporation (MC) has jointly established Next Mobility Co., Ltd (Next Mobility JV) to provide commercial on-demand-bus (ODB) transit services controlled by artificial intelligence. Headquartered in Fukuoka Prefecture, NNR is one of Japan’s largest bus operators, and its new joint venture with MC will commence operations in April 2019 (as planned) in Island City, which is located in Fukuoka City’s Higashi-ward.
Lacking profitability and drivers, many of Japan’s public passenger road transportation (PPRT) providers are struggling to develop efficient and sustainable services. Island City is undergoing a wave of development, and with more residential, commercial and port facilities going up, traffic is getting heavier. There are concerns in the area about parking shortages, worsening traffic congestion and a lack of public transportation.
To help address these concerns, the AI-controlled ODB services provided by Next Mobility JV are being rolled out in Island City on a one-year, trial basis. The purpose of the trial will be to verify these services’ effectiveness and commercial feasibility. By improving public transit and making it more readily available to citizens, we can encourage people to leave their cars at home and help to build more efficient and sustainable transportation networks
AI-controlled ODB is a new concept of public bus transit services. The AI generates routes automatically and in real time based on passenger requests submitted through smartphone apps. It uses deep learning to accumulate operational data on rider destinations and traffic conditions, enabling the buses to run more efficiently the more they are used. Passengers can also use their smartphones to book rides and can even pay with their credit cards. The booking and dispatching system has been developed by Spare Labs Inc., a Canadian Company.
Nissan Motors Co., Ltd. has agreed to sponsor the project and provide its ten-passenger Nissan Caravans for the trial. They will be driven by taxi drivers dispatched from Fukuoka Nishitetsu Taxi Co., Ltd. Fukuoka City and companies located in Island City will also be supporting the project by promoting its use throughout the area.
MC and NNR hope that this ODB service will ultimately help to realize a model for sustainable, efficient and seamless public transit, servicing both Island City and other areas throughout Japan.
Outline of Next Mobility JV]
・Establishment: March 8, 2019
・Head Office: Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan
・Business: Consulting and provision of next-generation ODB transit service and other transport-related systems, lease and rental of vehicles, etc.
・Shareholders’ Capital: 150 million yen
・Shareholders: 50% of NNRC, 50% of MC