Japan to start Internet car trails

Japan to start Internet car trails

A joint project between the Japanese government, the private sector and a Japanese university is to run trials involving 1,700 taxis and private cars networked via the Internet, the project team said Monday.

The group is made up of researchers from Keio University in Japan and Toyota Motor, NEC and automobile device maker Denso, and is sponsored by the Japanese government. It was set up in April and aims to promote the use of the Internet as a communication infrastructure for automobile service markets, said Kimiko Ishikawa, a spokeswoman for the Internet ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) research group at Keio University.

The three-month trials will be held in Nagoya, one of the major cities in western Japan, and in the metropolitan areas of Tokyo between January and March 2002.

The trials in Nagoya will provide information to taxi drivers and their customers using the Internet ITS. Drivers on the move can communicate via the Internet with the office, and their customers can browse city guide information in the car. There will be approximately 1,600 taxis using the services, Ishikawa said.

In the Tokyo metropolitan areas, around 70 car drivers will be offered the services, Ishikawa said. The trials will mainly focus on the Internet information service provided at several gas stations and direct settlement services for payment at some parking lots.

The services will be carried to the vehicles wirelessly by DSRC (dedicated short range communications) radio communication systems, according to a group statement.

An unspecified number of the vehicles in each area will be using Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), a technology the ITS project team has been promoting for "peer to peer" connections of every Internet vehicle in the future. IPv6 allows data to be collected on weather and road conditions, by monitoring and detecting each car via the Internet.

Current Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses are due to run out soon. The shortage has been tided over by network address translation (NAT) technology, which fractures a single address so that it can be allotted to multiple devices. However, NAT cannot let every device to have a unique global Internet address.

IPv6, on the other hand, has a much bigger address space, which will allow every device -- from home appliances to cellular phones -- to have a unique global address, so that each device becomes detectable via the Internet.

Through the trails, the team hopes to build the foundation for vendors to develop and commercialize applications for the Internet ITS, according to the project team.

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