It is not only in the US, UK and a few countries that field test of driverless cars is ongoing.
My past entry: Google auto-driving car to launch
Robot Taxi inc. said that it will start an experimental running on the public road of the auto-driving car in Kanagawa prefecture in Japan. It will be started in 2016. Initially, the driverless car will carry the passengers from their home to some places in the three-kilometer distance. Two employees will ride the car to prepare for an emergency.
The Wall Street Journal: RoboCab: Driverless Taxi Experiment to Start in Japan
Kanagawa is rather an urban region, adjacent to Tokyo. However, Robot Taxi is planning to contribute to the transportation in rural areas in the future. Actually, public transportation will be difficult to survive in the areas where the population is rapidly decreasing. Automated cars can help the citizens, especially aged people who have the anxiety to drive a car on their own. It is also advantageous for driverless cars that the road is not so crowded in rural areas.
ITProPortal: Driverless taxi to begin testing in Japan
To be honest, I was surprised that self-driving cars are going to be introduced as an experiment in Japan so soon. Some Japanese including politicians are very conservative that they hardly accept the new technology.
Taxi companies can oppose to the introducing of self-driving cars because they would be strong competitors. Labor cost is the biggest burden for taxi companies as well as other kinds of organizations. The combination of self-driving cars and ordering applications with a smartphone can eliminate most of the labor cost. The risk of accidents is potentially lower in automated operation since most accidents are due to carelessness or fatigue of the human driver. Conventional taxi companies would not match the robot taxi.
On the other hand, it is not assumed that ultimate safety is guaranteed in self-driving cars. You know that every operating system of the PC includes many errors. Your smartphone may frequently freeze. IT companies willing to develop automated vehicles will face the challenge whose standard is much higher than those they have encountered.
My past entry: Google car meet the first crash
Self-driving systems is also beneficial in the combination with the human driver. In Japan, some accidents of the public bus were reported. The drivers were extremely tired because of the long time driving. The auto-driving scheme can support them in the sense of preventing the tragedy. It is hopeful that conventional car-driving and innovative auto-driving will be collaborative with each other until auto-driving is completely established.