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News Release

October 2, 2013

Consortium for the creation of community-oriented local transport services
— Revitalizing communities through on-demand transport, encouragement to go out —

 The Japan Research Institute, Limited (JRI) today established the Community Oriented Stand-by Mobility Service (COSMOS) Consortium, whose purpose is to develop new community-oriented local transportation services incorporating network technology, autonomous driving technology, etc, and hosted an inaugural meeting with the participating private companies and municipalities.

 The Consortium’s goal is to develop entirely new forms of community-oriented local transportation services that will help to revitalize communities by encouraging local inhabitants to get out and about. The idea is to improve mobility within the local area and stimulate local people’s interest in going out by combining on-demand, door-to-door, low-cost transport based on vehicles able to carry 1-2 passengers, with a system that will send local lifestyle, amusement and administrative information to their smartphones, etc, and will even be capable of dispatching vehicles.

 Participants in the COSMOS Consortium include both private-sector companies able to contribute to the building of the infrastructure (makers of transport and telecommunications equipment, transport service providers, real estate developers and major construction companies, etc) and municipalities and communities that are considering the deployment of COSMOS as a means of local transport. The Consortium aims to conduct a survey of needs, examine possible business models and implement a trial project by the end of March 2016.

Community-oriented local transport services a key element of infrastructure for the revitalization of communities

 In a growing number of communities, cutbacks and the withdrawal of bus, railway and other public transport services are making it increasingly difficult for people who depend on public transport, such as the elderly, children and those who do not have a driver’s license, to get out and about. The growing fiscal burden on municipalities makes it unrealistic to maintain public transport services at their present level, but the decline in the number of trips made by local inhabitants tends to create a vicious cycle where the resulting loss of vitality among local businesses triggers a further fall in the number of trips made and further cutbacks to public transport services.

 COSMOS is an entirely new form of community-oriented local transport service that will combine low-cost transport with schemes to encourage local inhabitants to get out and about, aiming to stimulating traffic in the community.

 The means of transport currently envisaged for COSMOS is electric vehicles carrying 1-2 passengers at approximately the speed of a bicycle (15-20 km/h), suited to short trips. Local inhabitants will use their smartphones to reserve vehicles, which they will be able to use like taxis, to make door-to-door trips at the time of their choice. Vehicles, local businesses, municipalities and local residents will be linked via a telecommunication network, and there are plans for functions that will enable businesses to send information on time-limited sales and other shopping and event-related information, enable municipalities to send resident services information, to residents’ smartphones and suggest outings, and even make it possible to dispatch vehicles to users directly.

 Owing to the use of autonomous driving technology, labor and operating costs will be low. The initial investment will also be lower, since the 1-2 person electric vehicles will be cheaper to manufacture than buses or trains. Furthermore, because there will be no fixed routes or timetables, the cost of operating empty vehicles will also be minimized, and will arise almost only when a vehicle is being dispatched to a user.

Benefits to local inhabitants

 Using COSMOS, which will be cheap and as convenient as a taxi service, will make it much easier to get out and about. Since this will not be collective transport, there will be no detours or waiting for other passengers to get on or off. A feature allowing users to reserve vehicles directly from the screen used to view lifestyle, entertainment, administrative information sent by businesses and municipalities over the COSMOS system will also make it easier for users to act on the information that is relevant to them.

Benefits to local businesses

 Because COSMOS will make it easier for local residents to visit stores, businesses will find it easier to attract customers. Using the lifestyle and entertainment information dissemination functions will also allow businesses to attract local residents who are at home to time-limited sales, etc.

Benefits to municipalities

 Municipalities will be able to combine providing transport for local residents with reducing fiscal burdens, and contribute to the building of user-friendly cities. It is hoped that more local residents getting out and about will promote exchange between residents, revitalize local businesses and ultimately contribute to the revitalization of the community as a whole.

Outline of the COSMOS Consortium’s activities

 The COSMOS Consortium will include private-sector companies and local municipalities and communities that are considering the deployment of COSMOS as a means of local transport. It will investigate needs, consider the technologies required and applicable legislation, construct sustainable business models and aim to revitalize communities and create new markets.

Content of activities

 To ensure that the content of COSMOS services meets the needs of service providers and users, the Consortium will work with private-sector companies able to contribute to the construction of the COSMOS infrastructure, and with local municipalities and communities in more than 10 different areas around Japan, to identify the particular needs of each local community and construct business models suitable for each location.
 The Consortium will also consider technological options, develop intellectual property, identify legal issues relating to the treatment of the vehicles used, the use of roads, etc, and put forward policy proposals.
Specifically, the Consortium will aim to

Construct a business model and considering commercial development

  • coordinate with local municipalities and major local companies to identify specific needs,
  • identify service providers, service users and other stakeholders,
  • construct a business model and considering commercial development, including trial project,
  • lobby central government ministries and agencies regarding the implementation of the trial project,
  • put forward policy proposals, including proposals for deregulation,

    Acquire related intellectual property

  • consider technology and systems and acquire related intellectual property (obtaining joint patents, etc).

    Period of activity

    Phase 1: October 2013-March 2014
     A Market Subcommittee and a Technology Subcommittee will identify local needs, etc, examine possible business models based on those needs and consider possible combinations of technologies and convert them into intellectual property.

    Phase 2: April 2014-March 2016
     On the basis of the business model, a trial project will be implemented.

    Participants

     Private-sector companies able to contribute to the building of the COSMOS infrastructure, including makers of transport and telecommunications equipment, transport service providers, real estate developers, and major construction companies will participate and share their varied expertise.

     Municipalities and local communities including Kurashiki City (Okayama Prefecture), Kobe City (Hyogo Prefecture), Saitama City (Saitama Prefecture), Shinagawa City (ward of the city of Tokyo), Tsukuba City (Ibaraki Prefecture), Higashi-Hiroshima City (Hiroshima Prefecture) will also participate, and consider trial projects.

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