As the Japanese population ages, the number of elderly drivers on the roads increases and the problem is only getting worse. Due to the large number of accidents in which elderly drivers are involved in the country, Japanese insurance giant Sompo and Via, the world’s leading technological provider of digital infrastructures for operating public transport systems, have launched the first project of its kind for operating dynamic and smart shared transport for the elderly.
Japan, which has a population of 128 million, is known as the country with the largest percentage of elderly people in the world, with one third of its citizens over the age of 65. Car accidents in which people aged 75 and over are involved have climbed to new records over the past two years to 401 fatal accidents, which represent 14.4% of the total number of car accidents in the country. Through an artificial intelligence (AI) based alternative, for use by privately-owned cars, Sompo and Via are supporting a Japanese government initiative to reduce the number of car accidents in which the elderly are involved, while providing incentives for willingly giving up their driving license. In the Aichi Prefecture, for example, discounts are being offered for hundreds of restaurants in exchange for giving up the license.
As part of the project, an app called NORAZA has been launched, through which it is possible to order smart AI-based transport services, or there is also an option of ordering the ride through a telephone call center operated by Sompo. The project has been launched in Chino, a city with a population of 55,000, which is about two hours from Tokyo. The project will allow the elderly residents who make up 40% of the city’s population, and anyone else who wants, to travel freely and quickly, for any reason, whether for medical services, visiting care homes, leisure, or just a change of scenery, in this challenging time.
The new transport service in Chino, was launched as an alternative to the existing public transport in the city, which is mainly based on fixed and inefficient routes, as well as extensive use of privately-owned cars. The new project should help reduce traffic congestion as well as decreasing the number of car accidents in which elderly people are involved. Not only that, the dynamic service will also allow greater accessibility to the commercial center in the city and strengthen the local economy during these challenging times. The payment for the service will be made through a local virtual currency, which will encourage consumers to use local businesses.
Via’s end technology is based on unique algorithms, which solve complex mathematical, computational and operational problems and match up in real time the routes of the vehicles to the needs of passengers while calculating the large number of variables such as the traffic situation, the orders from the people who are travelling and the destinations that they want to reach. Via’s technology enables the creation of a smart transport system according to demand, in which passengers enjoy shared rides according to their needs. In addition, Via’s technology will also be responsible for every aspect of the day-to-day operations of the service, such as ordering the service and optimization of the transport fleet according to supply and demand in the city.
The project is the first cooperation between Via and a local authority in Japan. The collaboration between the two is expected to expand to other cities in Japan, which see importance in launching smart transport services that are accessible to both the elderly and the overall population.
Sompo Digital Lab Israel Head Yinon Dolev said: “Reducing the number of road accidents in Japan is a national challenge and we are delighted about the launch of this project and we believe that it will help the Japanese government’s efforts. The collaboration with Via and the city of Chino is part of the expansion of Sompo’s areas of focus on to smart transport and smart cities. In addition, we are working all the time to expand our business portfolio through cooperation with startups offering smart and unique technologies, and all with the desire to improve the services that we provide to our millions of customers around the world.”
Via cofounder and CTO Oren Shoval said: “We are excited about this collaboration with the city of Chino and with Sompo as part of the promotion of smart and innovative transport solutions throughout Japan. Chino is a pioneer in the field of smart transport and the launching of transport on demand with the NORAZA app will serve as an example for other cities in the future.”
Sompo is the second largest insurance company in Japan and has the largest chain of homes for senior living with 300 homes and 125 day-care centers. The company operates in more than 30 countries with overall annual sales of $36 billion and millions of customers in Japan and around the world. Since entering Israel in 2018, Sompo has invested more than $20 million in Israeli startups including Sensifree, Guardian, Nexar, Intuition Robotics, and Binah.ai.
Via, which raised more than $400 million last March at a company valuation of $2.25 billion, operates in some 100 cities worldwide. The company was founded in 2012 by CEO Daniel Ramot and CTO Oren Shoval and initially provided passengers services in New York City in 2013 and has since expanded its operations to other countries. Today, the company operates systems for smart management of public transport in hundreds of cities around the world through partnerships, including in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, London, Sydney, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Tokyo.