UD Trucks Co., Logistics firm Nippon Express Co. and Hokkaido agriculture cooperative Hokuren today announced a trial program that brings autonomous driving technology to the handling and logistics of farm products, helping Japan’s agriculture sector improve efficiency and looking to solutions amid the nation’s growing labor shortage.
The one-month trial program will be conducted at the Hokuren Sugar Factory in Nakashari, Hokkaido. In the trial, a vehicle from UD Trucks employing advanced Level 4 (L4) driving automation technology will demonstrate how produce can be moved through the factory complex. The heavy-duty Quon truck will operate on a typical delivery route from the entrance to the produce acceptance area, interim storage and the final unloading area.
UD Trucks is a leader in the use of L4 automation in Japan, the last step towards Level 5 (L5) fully-automated transportation, allowing the vehicle full autonomy over every aspect of driving in a predefined operational design domain (ODD).
Nation-wide driver shortage issue
The aging and shrinking population problem for Japan has led to widespread shortages of truck drivers and related workers in Japan. This trend is expected to continue with one research report forecasting a shortage of 240,000 drivers (25% of the total) by 2027. This will have a severe impact on the entire logistics sector in Japan especially in the shipment of perishable agriculture products with a wider impact on the entire Japanese economy.
The industry has had a number of important innovations through the years. Through integrated palletization, products are put on standardized pallets that can then move through the entire transportation process, from production facilities to distribution points. Modal shifting to use differing transportation methods has created greater efficiencies. Such innovations have already helped to reduce manpower needs in the industry.
Together addressing the social challenge for better society
In this background, the three companies have come together to address the social challenges of a driver shortage and the need for greater logistics efficiency. For UD Trucks, the trial offers the chance to conduct further testing and refinement of the range of technologies required for autonomous driving under real-life conditions in a confined area. For Nippon Express, the project provides greater understanding of the potential of automated technologies for its transportation business.
Hokkaido - as a field for automation driving
The project has also been made possible by the full support of the prefectural administration in Hokkaido, which is actively assisting companies in creating best practice for automation driving. In 2016, it established the Hokkaido Automotive Safety Technology Study Group bringing in experts from around the country in the facilitation and promotion of research and development in transportation systems.
Through this joint trial, the companies will increase their knowledge of the applications of L4 automaton and accelerate the establishment of automated driving systems, further contributing to smart logistics.
UD Trucks is a leading Japanese commercial vehicle solutions provider, active in more than 60 countries on all continents. Since its inception in 1935, the company has been an innovation leader with a clear vision to provide the trucks and services the world needs today.
The company is committed to go the extra mile for smart logistics with the most dependable solutions for demanding customers. To best support across applications and geographies, UD Trucks offers a full range of heavy duty trucks - Quon and Quester, medium duty trucks - Condor and Croner, and light duty trucks - Kazet and Kuzer, as well as associated operational and financial services.
UD Trucks is a proud member of the Volvo Group, which in 2018 had net sales of 391 BSEK and 105,000 employees globally.
Nippon Express is Japan’s largest global logistics company, with 705 locations in 302 cities in 46 countries, providing an unmatched solution for the storage, transportation and local distribution of goods worldwide. We also seek to reduce the environmental impact of transportation and CO2 emissions through technology, inter-modal models and joint logistics. The company was founded in 1937 and today has 71,525 employees and consolidated annual sales of 2,138.5 billion yen (as of March 31, 2019). The company is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.
Hokuren is a cooperative association of agricultural cooperatives that is funded by 108 units of the Japan Agriculture cooperative throughout Hokkaido. Since its establishment in 1919, it has provided support for farmers and a stable food supply to consumers. It also helps to promote the products of Hokkaido throughout Japan and is also active in research and bringing the use of technology to the agricultural and livestock sectors in Hokkaido. . Handling volume in FY 2018 totaled 1,530.0 billion yen with a transport volume from Hokkaido to other prefectures of 2.6 million tons. The group is headquartered in Sapporo, Hokkaido.
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