The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) will start research and development of automatic driving and driving in formation and carry out proving tests in fiscal 2010 and 2012.

This research and development is intended to reduce energy consumption through coordinated driving of automobiles and will be implemented as part of the "Energy-Oriented ITS Promotion Project," which was launched in fiscal 2008.

The automatic driving system automatically controls the vehicle operation so as to reduce energy consumption, while driving in formation allows shorter distance between vehicles to reduce air resistance, resulting in energy-saving driving, according to NEDO.

For the running tests in fiscal 2010, NEDO will use prototype vehicles equipped with functions for automatic driving and driving in formation. And the functions and performances of the basic technologies will be tested on an out-of-service part of the Second Tomei Expressway. In fiscal 2012, an open proving test will be carried out by using test vehicles with improved safety, reliability and performances.

For automatic driving and driving in formation, research and development of five basic technologies, specifically, driving control technology, driving environment recognition technology, position recognition technology, vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology and energy-saving driving control technology, will be conducted from 2008 through 2012. The details are as follows.

- Driving Control Technology
Precisely controls engine output, brake and steering wheel by utilizing positional information and three-dimensional road maps.

- Driving Environment Recognition Technology
Provides algorithm for recognizing white lines, vehicles and pedestrians and precisely detects distance and direction of the objects from the vehicle.

- Position Recognition Technology
(1) Creates three-dimensional road maps that include structures on the roads, (2) drives the vehicle by utilizing the created map and (3) checks if the vehicle is being driven properly by using GPS, etc.

- Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication Technology
Enables reliable communication between vehicles for exchanging information on vehicle control and driving in formation, etc.

- Energy-Saving Driving Control Technology
Provides driving control algorithm that is modeled after good drivers as well as algorithm for selecting a route that produces minimum CO2.

The research and development of automatic driving and driving in formation will be participated by 14 groups including universities, automobile and electronics manufacturers that have been developing the basic technologies for ITS (intelligent transport systems).

The Energy-Oriented ITS Promotion Project will not only conduct research and development for automatic driving and driving in formation but also try to establish an internationally recognized method for evaluating results, according to NEDO. To create the method, it aims to develop technologies for assuming traffic flow, estimating CO2 emissions from vehicles and monitoring CO2 emissions with probe technologies.