During CEATEC 2019, the Navya self-driving bus is moving a small number of people around a predetermined 1.5km route, which is “close to real-world” traffic, according to the organizers.

Even on a rotary path, it is a stretch of real road that involves several upgraded stoplights and telecommunications that offer a real test of the operational capabilities of the vehicle. The bus is operated by SB Drive, which is backed by Telecom giant Softbank.

The bus, which is said to be a Level-4 self-driving vehicle, has been permitted by Japanese authorities to be driving near the CEATEC trade show, which is happening this week. The vehicle can communicate with the stoplights and to a remote command center, thanks to wireless communications.

Level-5 is the highest degree of autonomy for driverless cars, with “no human intervention required.” Navya’s bus is Level-4 because of the limited area for which it has been permitted to drive.

For Navya, this is one of many successes the company had recently, including the opening of a bus route in Lake Nona, near Orlando International Airport. That route is also ~1 mile long, and the bus doesn’t go faster than 15 mph.

It’s unclear when Level-5 driving will truly happen, but things are certainly moving very quickly at the moment. Self-driving vehicles hold the potential for increasing safety and efficiency while at the same time reducing transportation costs and making older adults more independent.

Today’s demonstration was just another step in that direction.

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