Prominent leaders from Japan's automotive industry and urban planning policy experts gathered on November 1 at Panasonic's Cross-Value Innovation Forum 2018 in Tokyo to share their visions of future mobility and cities. Panel members included Mitsubishi Research Institute's Takaaki Sugiura; Keio University Environment and Information Studies' Dr. Jun Murai; Panasonic Automotive & Industrial Systems executives Yoshio Ito and Masahisa Shibata, and Goro Okazaki, an auto tech journalist.

Here are five key predictions from panelists:

1. Cars Will Evolve into Living Rooms on Wheels

"Traditionally, we define a good car as one that runs, turns and stops well," said tech journalist Goro Okazaki, "but users today - especially the young - expect more than that. To them, a good car must also feature a dashboard that can be connected to their smartphones."

As automakers make headway with autonomous cars, it may not be long before vehicles no longer require drivers. "If humans no longer need to drive, the driving experience needs to change," Panasonic's Yoshio Ito said. He then explained that his company has envisioned the future car to be an "Autonomous Living Space Cabin" that not only transports people, but also provides them with comfort and entertainment - just like a living room. The next-generation car, for example, will be able to sense the body temperature of passengers and adjust the air conditioning accordingly to provide an optimal personal environment.

2. The Internet of Things Will Make Roads Safer

Due to the rise of wireless and advancements in sensor technology, in the future, more "things" - be it smartphones, vehicles, or infrastructure - will be connected to the internet and to each other, which can help improve vehicle safety. "Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), for example, employ wireless connectivity, sensors, telematics, and image processing to recognize the surroundings and help prevent accidents," Ito explained.

3. Voice Recognition Technology Will Simplify Vehicle Operations

Although consumers are expecting future cars to be equipped with more functions, connected/smart vehicles should not be complicated to use. One way of ensuring they are intuitive is by incorporating more advanced voice recognition technology into smart cars, suggested Dr. Murai of Keio University. This will allow drivers to use verbal commands to operate the vehicle, eliminating the distraction of finding the right buttons to access the car's many features.

Ito agreed, noting that it is crucial to factor in the user experience when designing cars or other products. "Only by doing so will we be able to ensure that our products can solve their issues or provide additional value to enhance their lives," he said.

4. Car as a Service?

Due to the high costs of owning cars and, in some markets, the restrictions on car purchases, Panasonic's Masahisa Shibata predicts instead people will turn to car sharing.

Echoing Shibata, auto journalist Goro Okazaki commented, "Since there is no one vehicle that can address the varying needs of users and it's not easy to own many vehicles, car sharing could be an answer to that." With car sharing, one car can serve multiple purposes. For example, a vehicle used by one person to transport children to school in the morning can be used by someone else at noon to deliver parcels.

Some consumers might be hesitant to use car-sharing services due to concerns about hygiene, noted Shibata. To address this concern, he explained that Panasonic has developed nanoe, a technology that produces nano-sized electrostatic atomized water particles, already used in air conditioning and purifying appliances. "nanoe not only helps remove odors, but also inhibits bacteria growth and viruses, including the flu virus," he said.

5. AI as the Driving Force behind Better Services and Cities

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and connected "things" will enable consumers to gain better on-demand services. Panasonic's Ito said, "In the future, there will be zero waiting time. Consumers will be able to receive their parcels at their desired location at the exact time they want, as AI will decide the optimal way to make this happen, and will enhance the productivity and efficiency of the company delivering them."

Ito also noted that some cities have already experienced the benefits of adopting the new concept of mobility. Fujisawa, a city in Japan's Kanagawa Prefecture, is one such example. As part of the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town project, the city offers car and bicycle sharing services.

To close the session, Dr. Murai concluded, "AI and digital technologies will enable us to realize our dreams. What we once thought was impossible can become possible in the future - and that's what the digital society is all about."

[Business Session] Mobility Revolution - Future of vehicle, town and life -
Date and Time
November 1, 11:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m. JST
Mr. Yoshio Ito, Executive Vice President, CEO of Automotive & Industrial Systems Company, Panasonic Corporation
Mr. Masahisa Shibata, Senior Managing Executive Officer, Senior Vice President of Automotive & Industrial Systems Company, Panasonic Corporation
Mr. Takaaki Sugiura, Research Director of Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc.
Dr. Jun Murai, Professor of Faculty of Environment and Information Studies / Dean of the Graduate School of Media and Governance, Keio University
Mr. Goro Okazaki, Automobile Journalist
Ms. Yuri Ebihara, Fashion Model

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