Remarks by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Annual Meeting of the Science and Technology in Society (STS) Forum
Sunday, October 4, 2015
Kyoto International Conference Center
Chairman Omi, distinguished participants, thank you very much for having me again.
When I joined you in Washington, D.C. some time ago, I said that Japan must contribute more proactively to world peace and prosperity.
To that end Japan must use its power in science and technology as much as possible. I also want to turn Japan into a country where innovations spring up one after another.
So, what should we do?
We need "ecosystems," where knowledge meets knowledge and innovation invites more innovation. When I was in Silicon Valley this past April, I reconfirmed that ecosystems matter.
In my country, too, we must build innovation ecosystems. That is one of our most important tasks over the next five years.
Take an example of something we all know very well, like cars.
On one hand, car accidents kill more than one point two million people every year in the world.
Cars, on the other hand, are a great equalizer. They "democratize" people's movement, and their benefits should be enjoyed by all -- handicapped, aged, whoever.
Japan has a mission to address both the safety and the utility of cars through the technologies it commands. And it is here that the self-driving car technology being developed by many Japanese carmakers holds the key.
And yet, few companies appeared willing to do trial runs on public roads. This was two years ago.
So I volunteered to be the first to run a self-driving car on public roads. Future history books will have a special place for me as a result, and that makes me happy.
Perhaps this was a trigger. R&D on these cars has since gained momentum. Soon, self-driving cars will be able to change lanes on the highway.
Of course, many challenges remain. Maps, in the first place, must become dynamic. Dynamic maps tell the cars 3D and 4D information, such as the color of the lights down the road, whether any roadwork is taking place, how the surface of the road will be, and in what way other cars and pedestrians will likely interact, adding to the GPS information that is already in place.
To make such dynamic maps, a host of stakeholders dealing with sensor technologies, maps, cloud computing and traffic regulations must all come together.
In other words, there must be open innovation. That is also the reason that developing dynamic maps gives us a hotbed for building ecosystems.
The dynamic maps will turn into a new infrastructure that is crucial for our daily lives, and give rise to new services. In the process I want my country to lead the pack globally.
I think we could do that, for the manufacturing and processing savvy we have in Japan should play an important part in making self-driving cars safe and reliable. We must also work towards the international standardization of the technology.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is somehow beyond my imagination but the age of the self-driving car will come. And it will come very soon.
Do please come and see the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. It will be like “Buy one, get two,” because I can tell you that in 2020 Tokyo, self-driving cars will be running around, and you will be able to use them to move about.
Now, one more point.
I do believe in womenomics. For open innovation and its ecosystems, it is women in colorful attire that are the best fit. Put simply, we want many more female experts in science and technology.
That motivated my government to start a program, called "Riko-Challe."
This year, during the summer school holiday, the program invited a bunch of teenagers on factory tours. It involved more than thirty companies, from a mapmaker and a steel maker to a semiconductor firm.
The invited teenagers, by the way, included not a single boy, hence the program, "Riko-Challe." What does this exactly mean? Well, let me save that for another day.
In closing, allow me to cite the so-called Clarke’s Law. Arthur C. Clarke, well-known for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, said something like, “Any advanced technology gets strikingly similar to magic.”
I hope that a great number of magicians who captivate the world emerge from the STS community, and female “witches” from Japan in particular.
Thank you very much.