Automation of electric shuttles is an easier thing than making fully self-driving cars.

All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan's largest airline, together with SoftBank Corp. subsidiary SB Drive Corp., Advanced Smart Mobility and BYD, is testing an all-electric and autonomous electric bus at Haneda International Airport (HND).

The short trial (January 22 through January 31) on a 1.9 km (1.18 miles) segment of a restricted area is expected to bring such a shuttle service one step closer to reality.

Potentially, the autonomous bus might enter a regular service by the end of 2020.

"ANA and SB Drive first began trials for the driverless bus in 2018, with SB Drive providing the advanced "Dispatcher" technology that oversees safety functions by monitoring for obstacles and potential hazards. Other partners in the development of the autonomous electric bus include Advanced Smart Mobility and BYD.

ANA selected a specific course for the trial, with the bus set to travel the same 1.9km (1.18 miles) segment of restricted area in Haneda Airport multiple times throughout the testing period. During the test, the bus will be evaluated based on its ability to perform the conditional automation with little human oversight.

Because safety is the top priority, ANA is holding the bus to the highest performance standards, and the tests are specifically designed to replicate common real-world scenarios. If testing proceeds as projected, ANA plans to implement the autonomous electric buses at Haneda International Airport by the end of this year."

Shinzo Shimizu, Senior Executive Vice President of ANA said:

"ANA is committed to actively embracing the most innovative technology to improve all aspects of the passenger travel experience. Once fully implemented, the autonomous electric bus will allow us to provide a more convenient transit experience for our passengers while also improving efficiency for our airport staff. As sustainability has always been a priority for ANA, we will continue looking for opportunities to make our products and services more eco-friendly."