#Asia #Japan Show 46: Japan’s Unfair Advantage in Driverless Cars – Yuki Saji


We are about to start seeing more cars but fewer drivers on the road. Self-driving vehicles are already moving out of the labs and onto the roads world-wide, and Yuki Saji thinks Japan has a unique competitive advantage in the space.

Yuki is CEO of SB Drive, Softbank’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary which was recently spun out. We talk a lot about the future of driverless cars, of course, but also look into what Softbank, one of Japan’s largest and most valuable companies. is doing to ensure that it can continue to innovate and to also make sure the innovators within the company connect with each other and stay part of the corporate group.

It’s a great discussion, and I think you’ll enjoy it

Show Notes for Startups

The goals and origins of SB Drive
Building a team of entrepreneurs inside Softbank
Why self-driving cars will show up in rural areas first
How Japanese technology compares to the rest of the world
Why AI will become a commodity
Japan’s secret advantage in driverless cars
Why full autonomy will win out over assistive technologies
What’s holding back driverless cars in Japan
Advice for companies wanting to spin out startups

Links from the Founder

SB Drive’s homepage
Follow SB Drive on Facebook
Friend Yuki on Facebook

 Leave a comment
Transcript from Japan
Disrupting Japan. Episode 46.

Welcome to disrupting Japan. Straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero and thanks for listening.

In the coming decades there will be more cars but fewer drivers on the road. Companies from all over the world from start-ups to major automakers are ramping up both research and production of autonomous vehicles with the objective of dominating this new sector and Yuki Saji the CEO of SB Drive thinks that Japan has a very special advantage in this race. SB Drive was recently spun out of SoftBank to develop the technological platform for autonomous vehicles.

We talk a lot about the state-of-the-art in Japan now and what’s most likely to change both domestically and internationally in the coming decade. We’ll also talk in detail about how SoftBank, one of Japan’s largest companies, is setting up processes to foster innovation even disruptive innovation within both the parent company and across all of its corporate groups.

It’s something a lot of large firms can learn from, but I don’t want to give too much away. So let’s get right to the interview.


Tim: I’m sitting here with Yuki Saji, president of SB Drive. Thanks for sitting down with me and cheers.

Yuki: Cheers.

Tim: Even though it’s only coffee.

Yuki: Only coffee because at our office we can’t drink beer before 6 PM.

Tim: I think that’s probably a good thing. You’re actually an entrepreneur within SoftBank and SB Drive is the new company spun out to develop autonomous vehicle technology but you can explain it better than I can. Why don’t you tell us a bit about SB Drive?

Yuki: SB Drive is very new company of SoftBank group. I once worked for SoftBank for eight years. I was planning the communications service and campaign, I thought new IoT — Internet of Moving Things — is very very important.

Tim: Yeah, it certainly is. This is interesting. So SoftBank, for listeners overseas who might not know the company, I know it’s unthinkable in Japan everyone knows but overseas maybe. It’s one of the few entrepreneurial, true entrepreneurial companies in Japan and they make pepper robot, they run one of the largest mobile carriers. So you started out in the Telecom section, how did you end up with autonomous vehicles?

Yuki: Step-by-step I explained both autonomous vehicles is one of telecommunication device. Autonomous vehicles needs important telecommunication.

Tim: SB Drive is interested in more than just that …

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