The transport ministry is considering legislation to make it easier for automakers to update software in self-driving cars, along with a raft of provisions to prevent unwanted intrusions.
Under current laws, new technological developments such as automatic braking or lane changing, can only be updated on self-driving cars one unit at a time. Car owners then have to take their upgraded vehicle to inspection centers for a safety check confirmation before the technology can be used.
However, transport ministry officials are moving to revise the Road Transport Vehicles Law to allow car manufacturers to use wireless over-the-air communications systems to update software programs on self-driving cars.
The officials are planning to submit the bill to the current Diet session as early as March so that it takes effect in 2020.
Before car manufacturers are allowed to make across-the-board program updates, the proposed changes will have to be approved by the central government in advance.
Officials will test the program on driving courses to check whether the technology is suitable, and if proper security measures are in place to prevent hacking.
The proposed legislation will also include new provisions to penalize those who distribute programs not approved by the government.
Self-driving technology has spread quickly in recent years, with 77.8 percent of newly sold domestic vehicles equipped with automatic braking functions.
By 2020, the government aims to raise self-driving technology to "Level 3," meaning that self-driving cars would be allowed on public roads and expressways under certain conditions. Drivers would only take charge of the vehicle in emergency situations.
Experts have pointed out the need to simplify the updating of computer programs in autonomous vehicles to promote the further spread of such technology.