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  • Writer's pictureHirokazu Kobayashi

Europe and America are feedback-oriented, vs. Japan is a perfectionist!

Updated: May 19

Hirokazu Kobayashi

CEO, Green Insight Japan, Inc.

Professor Emeritus and Visiting Professor, University of Shizuoka

There are differences in thinking patterns between Japan and Western countries. Science develops by sharing research results and samples worldwide, using English as a common language. Various living species' genome (genetic information) analysis has progressed since the 1990s. Initially, it started from microorganisms with little genomic information and eventually became humans. The complete sequences (reference sequences) of more than 1,000 species have been determined. Together with genome analysis, researchers worldwide have begun sharing each species' DNA fragments and mutant strains. For this purpose, the ABRC (Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center) was established at Ohio State University to model the plant Arabidopsis I use in my research. In Japan, this is the RIKEN BRC (BioResource Research Center). Request that ABRC distribute Arabidopsis mutant line seeds over the Internet. We will pay a fee for a phytosanitary certificate, the necessary shipping costs, and the actual shipping cost through a credit card. However, the desired mutation often disappears. On the other hand, in the case of BRC, if you fill out the provision request form and send it as an email attachment, you will receive seeds with deferred payment. In the case of BRC, reliable items are usually delivered. In the case of ABRC, especially when distributing a group of newly established mutant lines, the value of the mutant line group is ensured by distributing it with uncertainty and receiving feedback on the results. Japanese people are relatively serious and have a strong sense of responsibility. Therefore, they try to provide something more reliable than just paying for the expenses.

Industrial products are also shared with the world, and cars are one of them. In Europe and the United States, after a car is delivered, it is often improved by user feedback. European and American cars often have a free warranty of 3 or 4 years or up to 36,000 or 50,000 miles. During this time, we had to take the car to the dealer several times, including due to recalls. On the other hand, such a system is rarely seen for domestically produced cars sold domestically. In other words, we try to provide finished products. There are cases in which Japan's cautious stance has backfired. Installing self-driving functions into cars. This is due to delays in developing these laws, with the publication of the “Guidelines for System Development Related to Automated Driving'' in 2018 and the enforcement of the “Revised Road Traffic Act'' in 2019. However, behind this is the Japanese people's anxiety and perfectionism. In other words, most people in Japan were resistant to automating the driving of cars, on which people's lives depend.

My parents' home was Fukuchiyama City, Kyoto Prefecture, an inconvenient location with only three round daily trips by bus. My parents, who were almost 90 years old, had been moved to a nursing home. Meanwhile, I had a job in Shizuoka City. I decided to use a car as my means of transportation, considering I could travel even at night without delay when I would be called. In 2015, my previous car broke down, and I wanted to buy a new one. At that time, no Japanese cars were compatible with self-driving. So, I chose a European car with safety and autonomous driving. The self-driving technology introduced in flagship models will be rolled out to general-purpose car models over the years. Autonomous driving functions were added to cars released in 2014. In this case, it uses three types of sensors: seven radars, two cameras, and four ultrasonic sensors to monitor all directions while driving, giving us a sense of security while driving. As a result, we would not get tired even when driving long distances. Ultrasonic waves are used only for low-speed driving, but a computer organizes information from these three types of sensors and controls steering and speed. Since a control mechanism depends on lives, it is set up to issue a warning in advance if a flaw is discovered. After four years, the number of warnings increased, parts were replaced more frequently, and maintenance costs increased. Therefore, I replaced it with a new model in the same class in 2022. The new model has a high degree of compatibility between automated driving and driver operations, improving the sense of security and, at the same time, further reducing driving fatigue. European cars only offer “driving assistance,'' unlike electric car companies headquartered in the United States, focusing on self-driving. Currently, "Level 2" autonomous driving is mainstream, and if you recognize that this is "driving assistance," it is a safe and excellent means of taking people to their destinations.

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