What projects have led to user acceptance of a new product or service?

Japan is facing a variety of social issues caused by rapid social changes, such as the declining birthrate, aging population, and the Covid-19 pandemic. New services and products are being developed and launched to solve these social issues. However, users sometimes feel uneasy or unfamiliar with new products and services, which makes it difficult for them to spread. In this situation, it is important to have users understand the products and services better and to use their opinions as feedback to improve our services. Fukuoka City is promoting a variety of demonstrative experiments to solve these issues as it aims to become a model smart city that we can be proud of in the future, starting with the town of Hakozaki. In addition to verifying specific issues for development and launch, one of the important objectives is to have residents of the surrounding area participate as monitors, not only to promote understanding of the cutting-edge services, but also to promote feedback on the effectiveness of the services and products and the issues that need to be addressed through questionnaires. In this issue, we would like to introduce an example of a demonstrative experiment we conducted in the past, in which we provided feedback based on the experiences of the residents.

Smart East PoC Program, a demonstrative experiment to verify feasible technologies

The Smart East PoC Program, which conducts demonstrative experiments on technologies and services that have the potential to be implemented in order to realize a smart city that Fukuoka can be proud of in the future, has supported 12 demonstrative experiments since it started its activities in 2018.  In the Smart East PoC Program 2021, we are particularly seeking applications from businesses with technologies related to health (wellness), safety (security), and mobility.

For example, the operation of self-driving community buses and the introduction of personal mobility to support walking will ensure that the elderly, who have difficulty getting around freely, have a means of transportation through technology. In addition, telemedicine (remote medical treatment and medication guidance) can be realized by using AI and online technology, and a social infrastructure can be built to watch over children and the elderly with IoT terminals.

Experience the technology through demonstrative experiments because you have never experienced it before.

Of course, we cannot focus only on the benefits. We need to ask ourselves, "Is it really safe?" "Because this is a technology that no one has experienced yet, and because its functions have not yet been implemented in society, we understand that some people may feel uneasy. The demonstrative experiment we are conducting aims to eliminate the concerns of the residents who will be monitoring the system by ensuring safety and allowing them to actually experience the system. Therefore, in the demonstrative experiment in the field of mobility, which holds the key to solving social issues in public transportation, we conducted a driving experiment with automated mobility with the participation of residents.

90% of people who test drove an automated minibus said they felt safe

In a driving test of an "automated minibus with no steering wheel" conducted with the automated driving venture BOLDLY, we invited the general public to participate as test-ride monitors. The automated driving technology provided by BOLDLY, which aims to solve public transportation issues through automated driving, is expected to contribute to solving many problems, such as the shortage of bus drivers, the need for transportation for the elderly, and the management difficulties of bus companies, and has already been implemented in some areas.

automated minibus with no steering wheel

As a result of the survey, 90% of the respondents answered "I felt safe" to the question "Did you feel safe during the test drive? There were some who said, "I was worried at first, but I was able to ride with peace of mind," and it was clear that people had a sense of security about the automated driving technology. Furthermore, when asked, "Would you like to use self-driving buses in the future if they become popular? More than 90% of the respondents answered "Yes", and almost 100% answered "Yes" to the question "Do you have expectations for self-driving technology?

*The following are the results of the survey on the "automated minibus with no steering wheel".

Q2. Did you feel safe during the test drive?

Q3. If self-driving buses becomes popular in the future, would you like to use them?

Q4. Are you expecting to use automated driving technology?

Expectations for smart cities revealed by the Smart East PoC Program

Through the questionnaires introduced here, we strongly felt a sense of expectation for the implementation of cutting-edge technologies. In the three years since the launch of the Smart East PoC Program, we have received a great deal of feedback from the residents who monitor the program, and we feel that the outlines of the smart city are gradually becoming clearer. In the future, with the cooperation of businesses, we will continue to provide support for demonstrative experiments of advanced technologies and innovative business models, and with the understanding and feedback of residents, we hope to foster momentum for the development of cutting-edge products and services, and to create expectations for the creation of a new city that we can be proud of in the future. Please look forward to more demonstration experiments in the future!

Fukuoka Smart East Promotion Consortium Office