The AR-07 low-speed electric land car seats 7 people and is classified as a compact car in Japan.
In various regions of Japan, the aging of the population, exoduses from rural municipalities to urban centers, and other factors are revealing a range of personal mobility and transportation issues. Employing a versatile low-speed electric mobility platform that can be adapted for numerous applications, Yamaha Motor is working to help provide solutions for first- and last-mile transportation across a range of scenarios, from daily use by local residents to utilization in industrial settings.■Assisting and Participating in over 100 Real-World Tests Nationwide
As a precursor to the government's GSM initiative, the vehicle deployed in the city of Wajima in Ishikawa Prefecture became a role model for the entire country. It is the first low-speed electric vehicle in Japan with a kei license plate and circulates the city carrying tourists and local elderly residents.
Today, low-speed electric vehicles dubbed "Green Slow Mobility (GSM)" are beginning to take to public roads all across Japan. GSM is a general term defined by Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism as "small-scale transportation services that utilize electric vehicles running on public roads at speeds under 20 km/h," and the term refers to the vehicles themselves as well. Local municipalities, organizations, and businesses across the country are proactively conducting real-world tests each year with the aim of addressing various transportation issues stemming from the nation's declining birthrate, aging population, and rural exoduses. In some areas, full-on deployment of services has already begun, with regularly scheduled routes and the like.
What served as a forerunner to this initiative was Yamaha Motor Powered Products Co., Ltd.,* a Yamaha Motor group company handling golf car and land car businesses, participating in a project led by the city of Wajima in Ishikawa Prefecture to explore new modes of transportation within its jurisdiction. In 2014, a low-speed vehicle based on a Yamaha land car became the first of its kind in Japan to obtain a kei
ultracompact vehicle license plate and began testing on public roads, shuttling resident seniors and tourists around the city. Following this, the project moved to conducting real-world testing of an automated driving system using electromagnetic induction wires, and in these ways became a role model for other local governments facing similar issues.
To date, Yamaha Motor has assisted with over 100 real-world tests and full-scale introductions in various locations around Japan, and the data and knowledge gained through these tests is being put toward further advancements in technologies and products. The platform's high versatility and expandability features a slim and compact body design suited to navigating narrow roads, a low floor for easy boarding and exiting by seniors and children, as well as an open, spacious-feeling design. With a lineup of three models and ranging in capacity from 4 to 7 people, these vehicles are promoting the concept of fun, comfortable, and convenient mobility.*A group company in Japan that develops, manufactures, and sells power products, such as golf cars, land cars, and snowblowers. It also manufactures industrial-use unmanned helicopters and other Yamaha Motor products.■High Expectations as a Business Directly Addressing a Societal Issue
Japan's first GSM taxi (left) and a ride-sharing cart and regularly scheduled shuttle in a resort area
GSM projects are also bringing new energy to tourist spots, such as the GSM vehicle in the left photo above, which is being used for ride sharing in a port town that was the setting for one of Japan's biggest animated movie hits. The town's population continues to age, but today, it is becoming more common to see elderly residents using the service to go out riding together and chatting with tourists from overseas visiting to see the sights. The photo on the right is a resort area in Okinawa, where various GSMs are being used for ride sharing and so on to connect the different tourist spots dotting the town, creating a much more vacation-like atmosphere and feel for everyone.
Alternatively, using GSM services and vehicles in large-scale residential complexes has been drawing greater attention in recent years. In the 1960s and '70s during Japan's period of rapid economic growth, such large-scale housing developments?dubbed "new towns"?were built one after another looking to resolve the country's housing problems at the time. However, it has been over 50 years since then and various problems have become more apparent, from fewer public transportation options to the deterioration of townscapes and facilities. Among the most serious challenges is a lack of short-distance transportation options to get to supermarkets, hospitals, public facilities, and the like. As one solution, there are cases emerging in which local residents themselves take the lead in operating GSM services. This speaks to the fact that GSM is also proving useful as a communication tool for locals and helping to foster greater social capital.
Getting out of the house is considered an essential daily activity for seniors to enjoy their lives. Yamaha Motor is conducting research together with the Center for Preventive Medical Sciences at Chiba University to study the correlation between mobility and health among elderly residents facing inconveniences in getting around. The study is investigating and verifying what kind of effects using GSMs to aid the personal mobility of elderly residents can be seen toward improving their quality of life and encouraging healthy lifestyles. Some findings have already shown clear improvements with various indicators that contribute to healthier lives.
Furthermore, technological innovations for autonomous driving are also in motion that will further expand the potential uses for GSMs. In May of this year, Japan's first transportation service using Level 4 automation was launched in a mountainous area of Fukui Prefecture using a GSM from Yamaha Motor. We have positioned GSMs and other new businesses as strategic business fields, and are ramping up the laying of foundations for them since they are directly linked to resolving a range of societal issues.
By providing low-speed electric vehicles, Yamaha Motor is working to contribute to solving critical societal issues in transportation, health, and regional development. On top of that, we are aiming to also bring fun as a value to mobility in ways unique to Yamaha Motor.
In Japan, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry are promoting the development of self-driving vehicles for securing the flow of people and goods in underpopulated areas and other locations as well as for first- and last-mile needs. The ministries are also actively pushing for the deployment of low-speed electric mobility services in various regions. With their low cost, versatility, fun and open body design, and technologies enabling manned or unmanned operation, Yamaha's low-speed electric mobility vehicles are being tested and put into commercial service nationwide.