“Mobility Society 2050”: Japan’s Vision for Sustainable Mobility of People, Goods, and Information

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Bordeaux (2024)


“Mobility Society 2050”: Japan’s Vision for Sustainable Mobility of People, Goods, and Information


Background, Focus and Contents of the Study (Presentation):

Since the 1970s the Japanese government had implemented programs that aimed at shifting the car market towards electromobility. These programs had all been very ambitious, however, the envisioned targets all proved to be unachievable at these times. After more than three decades of disappointing results, the Japanese government in the early 2000s discontinued these programs and applied an ordo-liberal regulatory approach by implementing ever stricter regulations with respect to fuel-efficiency of cars. These fuel efficiency targets, which the manufacturers had to achieve within a certain timeframe, provided the basis for the introduction of the eco-car subsidy scheme in 2009. With this scheme fostering in particular next generation vehicles (hybrid, plug-in hybrid, fuel-cell, battery electric, natural gas, and green diesel cars), the Japanese automobile market profoundly shifted towards more fuel-efficient and less polluting vehicles, first and foremost hybrid cars.

With the changing government’s approach, the manufacturers more and more found themselves in the situation to develop ideas not just to further increase fuel efficiency, but more and more to consider new forms of mobility that will meet the requirements of Japan’s society in the future.

In 2015, the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) presented its first mobility study titled “Automated Driving Vision”, which provided the basis for JAMA’s short-term “Mobility Vision 2030”, which was published in 2018. Reacting towards the announcement of Japan’s government in October 2020 to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, JAMA reviewed its approach to future mobility concepts entirely and presented its long term “Mobility Vision 2050”.

Already in 2018, industry leader Toyota declared its ambition to alter the company’s business model and change from being an automobile producer to becoming a provider of future mobility solutions.

All the new mobility concepts are based on the assumption that three mega-trends, namely (A) carbon neutrality, (B) digitalization, and (C) the new post-Corona lifestyle are providing the means for radically changing the mobility habits of the people in Japan in reaction towards profound socio-economic long-term developments.

These socio-economic developments are (1) a dramatically changing demography, (2) a fast-proceeding urbanization and rural depopulation process as well as (3) changing value assessments of the Japanese people regarding work, consumption, and self-fulfillment.

Based on these facts and assumptions, the individual mobility requirements are split into mobility requirements of people living (a) in metropolitan areas, (b) people commuting between metropolitan areas and suburban towns, and (3) people living in the countryside.

In its most decisive move so far to shift to a mobility service providing company Toyota began to construct a new city on the premises of its former Higashi-Fuji factory in Shizuoka Prefecture as a real-life laboratory for experimenting with new ideas for sustainable mobility. Thus, the company is expanding into areas formerly completely unrelated to automobile production like construction, energy management, logistics and civil administration. Woven City is therefore intended not only to serve as real-life laboratory for sustainable mobility, natural disaster resilience and carbon neutral economic development, but in particular also for Toyota to test the viability and profitability of new business areas.

From today’s perspective it seems therefore a little surprising, that already in the mid to end 1990s the Japanese manufactures began to systematically develop car models for meeting the specific mobility requirements of Japan’s future society. From 2011 on, the future of urban mobility was the thematical focus of the Tokyo Motor Show, which after the Tohoku Earthquake (tsunami) in the same year, was extended to broader mobility issues particularly related to increasing the resilience of the vital infrastructure in case of natural disasters by using alternative energy vehicles. Particularly with the publication of the 2015 “Automated Driving Vision” the manufacturers presented ever more applicable future vehicle concept that were increasingly tested under every-day conditions in municipalities or at events attracting world-wide attention like the 2020 Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics. This went hand in hand with policies of the government to abandon utopian plans for spreading electric vehicles as the government tried to pursue since the 1970s, but instead aim at achieving a gradual shift in consumer behavior towards next generation vehicles.

The presentation will outline (1) the macro developments that are forcing the industry to develop alternative mobility concepts that would alter the business models of the automobile manufacturers dramatically. Next, we (2) will see how the demographic change and quickly proceeding urbanization as well as rural depopulation affect the domestic automobile industry. Looking (3) at new mobility concepts, we will in particular concentrate on the Green Growth Strategy, the JAMA 2050 Mobility Visionprogram as well as the 2030 Toyota Mobility Revolution and the Woven City real-life laboratory. Last (4) we will access the efforts in Japan to shift to electromobility or whether Japan is intending to move from hybrid technologies to hydrogen propulsion.




Kwansei Gakuin University

School of International Studies

Prof. Dr. Holger Bungsche

Jean Monnet Chair                                                             

EU Institute Japan/Kansai Vice President

662-8501Nishinomiya City

Uegahara Ichiban-cho 1-155

Tel: ++81-798-54-7248

E-Mail: holger.bungsche@kwansei.ac.jp




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