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Special Award

Winner

Social EV Design Contest 2022

Conducted by the Association for the Promotion of Electric Vehicles (APEV), Japan

Ryūshi

 
Tackling Japan's aging population problem and social reclusiveness through a shared mobility service

Challenge

To propose a 'society and social EV design' for 2040. Social EV is the mobility that is evolving and contributing to both public and private societal situations. For this particular challenge, we took the most pressing problem in Japan - Aging.

Outcome

A service concept (by the Japanese government) that promotes a synergic relationship between elderly citizens and immigrants through an AI assistant and a mobility pod, aiding cultural adaptation for immigrants while offering assistance to Japan's aging population.

Impact

The project won a 'Special Jury Award' in the final round of APEV Social EV Design Contest. The jury members highly appreciated it for its unique solution to an age-old problem for Japan and its population.

Collaborators
Anuraag Vasisht | Surya Sathi Roy

Role
Design Research | Service Ideation | Vehicle Exterior | Figma

Year
2022

Problem Statement

 

​To propose a 'society and social EV design' for 2040.

But what is a Social EV?

 

Currently, electric vehicles are privately owned by individuals and are not incorporated into the social system to support our life. Therefore, social EV is the mobility that is evolving and contributing to both public and private societal situations.

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Societal Issues of Japan

Homelessness

Gender inequality

Anemic economic growth

Natural Calamities

Low press freedom

Sleeplessness

Reserved culture

Ageing population

Social isolation

Shortage of workforce

Low food self sufficiency

Powerless government

Teen pregnancies

Shrinking population

Neglect towards immigrants

Nihon and its Culture

Japan, as a country, has seen a lot of changes throughout the centuries. Only very few nations in the world have such vibrant history to their name. This country was settled by Paleolithic people about 35,000 years ago from the mainland of Asia. Japan has been under multiple emperors, samurai warriors, siege, isolation from the entire world, expansion over most of the continent, natural disasters, world war, and even two deadly nuclear bombs. Yet, even after all of this, Japan has stood the test of time, has been resilient and has continued to strive through time and stand out and the top. This has many contributions from the strong Japanese culture that the people of Japan have so carefully preserved to date.

Predictions 2040

After looking at several issues that Japan's society faces, we studied the predictions made for the Japanese society of 2040. We took the help of Future Timeline database, where you can easily find predictions made by researchers based on the year and categories (environment, space, technology, society, etc.). Below are some of those predictions that we thought could help us create our version of Japanese society in 2040.

Futute Timeline Database

  • Japan's population will remain at a low level in the "Japan's future estimated population," and the Japan economy will enter an era of negative growth.

  • A decline in the savings rate due to a declining population will negatively affect the potential growth rate of the Japan economy.

  • Fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) become popular in Japan

  • The population of the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries (number of employed persons) in Oita Prefecture will plummet to about 10,000 (39,000 in 2010)

  • The number of foreign tourists visiting the three prefectures of Hokuriku will double to 730,000 (travel consumption will be 3.4 times. 355,000 in 2017)

  • Artificial photosynthesis technology to produce fuel from carbon dioxide (CO2) will be realized.

  • By this year, there is a little less than 25% chance that artificial intelligence will reach a singularity that surpasses humans.

  • Japan's working-age population accounts for only 53% of the total population.

  • Japan's working-age population (15-64 years old) will decrease by 30%

  • Japan's aging rate reaches 33.2%, and one in three people in Japan will be elderly.

  • Demand of personal vehicle will decrease

  • Autonomous driving of automobiles will become mainstream of road traffic

  • Automating the operation of automobiles raises the speed limit on highways to 160 kilometers per hour

  • Realization of domestic technology to transplant consciousness into machines

  • Humanoid robots become part of the family

Aging Society of Japan

It's no secret that Japan is aging fast. Its 'super-aged' society is the oldest in the world in 2020: 28.7 % of the population is 65 or older, with women forming the majority. It is expected that by 2036, people aged 65 and over will represent a third of the population. Not only that, but the Japanese population has also been shrinking since 2011. Japan's population is expected to drop from 127 million in 2015 to 88 million by 2065.

High life expectancy

+

Low fertility rate

=

Japan's aging society

ageing-population-sociology.webp
ageing-population-japan.jpg

Consequences

Labor shortages​

​Increased burden on elders

​Depression among youths

Immigrants in Japan

Total Population

126 millions

3 Million Immigrants

By 2050, the world population is expected to increase by 2 billion people, according to the United Nations, but Japan’s population is expected to shrink by at least 20 million. According to reports, the country’s population has been dropping by around 400,000 a year. Immigration is now seen as the most obvious solution to that demographic challenge.

 

In April 2019, Tokyo implemented historic immigration reform, expanding visa programs to allow more than 345,000 new workers to immigrate to Japan over the subsequent five years.

Japan custom-orders a labor force in sectors where they are most urgently needed

Low-skilled workers are only allowed to reside in Japan for 5 years

Specialized skilled workers can stay indefinitely along with their family

Is Japan ready to be an immigrant country?
APEV - Immigrants_Mind_Map.jpg

Mind mapping excercise putting immigrants at the center

Locals vs Immigrants

No integration programs that address the socioeconomic marginalization confronted by unskilled immigrant workers

The reinforcement of unique traditional and modern cultures of Japan makes it difficult for long-term migrants to feel a sense of belonging in society.

Low employment opportunities and further growth

Imbalanced power relationship between employers and foreign interns.

Tensions exist between migrants and Japan’s social, cultural, and institutional response to them.

Language barrier

Wall of prejudice

In some European countries, citizenship and welfare policies have played a significant role in helping immigrants, but similar policies do not exist in Japan

Japan, as a country, largely continues to be seen as ethno-national rather than multi-cultural by both its people and the world

Ill-designed Japanese national educational system, especially at the elementary and secondary levels restricts integrating immigrant children.

Immigrants in Japan have been employed as flexible workers who can be easily dismissed by employers for economic reasons.

No one can live entirely on their own, nor can any country or society exist in isolation.

Daisaku Ikeda

What needs to be done?

Integration

A proper pathway to integrate and support the incoming immigrants is required along with efforts from the locals and the government of Japan

Employment

Not only the socio-cutural integration, but equal employment opportunities is also important if Japan's government plan to attract immigrants

Upgradation

Once the immigrants are integrated well in Japan's culture, it is crucial to ensure that they sustain doing so while upgrading their socio-economic lifestyle just like local citizens

Brainstorming
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APEV - Frame 1.jpg

Scenario till 2035

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Population Decline

Japan has been under a lot of stress for the past five years. Global warming has already started showing wrecking worldwide, bringing Earth under a lot of duress. Apart from the environmental issues, what Japan is experiencing has been in talks for more than 50 years now. A sharp population decline has brought the count to only over 100 million people at the start of 2040 after the recent consensus. Even the average age has gone down to 55, bringing the youth to only around 12% of Japan's total population. Multiple talks have been carried out over domestic and international channels to curb this issue in the teeth and bring a more vibrant future for the technological giant Nihon.

Japanese Basic Income

65% of the population have started receiving their monthly JBI (Japan Basic Income), which changed according to the tier of the cities they live in and their surrounding costs. This covers their basic costs, including essentials, groceries, clothes, and other expenditures; medical expenses are covered by the JHS (Japan Healthcare System). All beneficiaries of the JHS have direct access to medical facilities all over Japan and its partnering countries.

Rise of Hikikomori

After the pandemic phase of the 2020s, many facets have been impacted. This duration also saw the youths of Japan seeking severe social reclusion. Remote work and automation brought in speed and accuracy but also, on the other side, people in Japan have started living in silos and never really interacting with each other. The country's social fabric has been disturbed and perforated, leaving gaps that the government is struggling to repair.

AI and Automation

Production work in the primary industries has been running efficiently due to the more rigorous integration of AI and automation in industries like construction, FMCG, Automobile, and more.

Global Village Initiative 2035

At the start of 2035, the Japanese government and society alike started struggling with issues pertaining to a population that is at an all-time low. This led to the formation of the Global Village Initiative 2035, with countries coming together to join hands and share a centralized skilled talent pool placed around the world. Immigrants can apply to different job profiles or be matched to different opportunities according to their profiles. Barring a few hiccups, most major countries have slowly adapted to these changing dynamics and have guided their companies and agencies to accommodate these Global Village Candidates.

Lack of Cultural Integration of Immigrants

With its enrollment with Global Village Initiative, the Japanese government started receiving many applications from eligible students and young professionals planning to study at the best institutions in Japan and work in the best places. But a few years later, much reclusiveness emerged among the immigrants and the locals. Things started on a good note, but what the government soon realized was that even though some of them knew the language and were trained well before coming into the country, most of them were not able to understand, adapt or even cope with the culture and relating nuances of Japan as these immigrants were brought up in their own cultural inclinations and practices. Although the current generation of Japan is much more welcoming of immigrants due to rapid globalization, the process of these immigrants becoming a part of society faster becomes paramount to rebuilding the social fabric of Japan.

Introducing Ryūshi Initiative

In the summer of 2040, the Japanese government gave the green signal for the Ryushi initiative policy. Under this policy, young students and professionals from partner countries are invited to live in Japan for a longer duration of time. Whenever such an immigrant arrives in the country, an old Japanese local (senior volunteer) is matched up with a new young immigrant to exchange the nuances of culture. This ensured not only a faster onboarding onto the Japanese culture for these immigrants but a supportive young population to take care of the older population of Japan.

Why only a young population?

 

Young students and professionals from partner countries are ideal candidates for this initiative since they are more flexible and, therefore, more likely to adapt to a new culture. The incoming young population will balance Japan's rapidly aging population and revitalize the social fabric. In order to attract these young minds, the Japanese government has formulated various policies under which foreign students are given reserved seats at universities in Japan.

Ryūshi Initiative: Onboarding

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Whenever a new immigrant is selected for the Global Villagers X Ryushi initiative program, their data is collected through proper authorized channels of their country of origin. A personalized program according to their purpose of visit and the culture and nuances of the city they will be residing in is prepared by the Ryushi A.I. before they arrive in the country. Once they arrive here in Japan, the Ryushi module (which comes with the same Ryushi A.I.) is specifically assigned to them, which picks them up directly from their point of arrival. After a day or two of the initial introduction, they are assigned a senior volunteer. 

Ryūshi Module

Ryushi module is a fully autonomous purpose-built electric vehicle. It allows the immigrant and the senior volunteer to travel together during a fixed time suitable for both of them. It is designed symmetrically to use fewer parts.

Multiple Ryūshis can be parked together to double up as social spaces where these immigrants can interact with each other to further pass on collective knowledge. This arrangement can also act as a space where they can connect with someone from their home countries whenever they feel a little homesick.

A Japanese-style traditional house inspires the interior of the Ryushi module with a separate genkan area. It can accommodate two users allowing them to face each other and sit in seiza for better interaction.

The module comes with an AI-powered Ryushi bot. There is a retractable table on which the A.I. bot can project the content between the two users. This projection depends on the context and is interactive by nature.

The volunteer and the immigrant follow the 4-6-8-10 week program with a one-hour-long daily session set by the AI and start exchanging notes on culture and society with the help of AI. The program regime begins from Day 1 itself, helping them interact with the local crowd, understand specific cultural nuances and blend into the Japanese public, which they will soon call home. Different avatars and levels help these immigrants integrate into their surroundings with time, almost acclimatizing them to the local culture. The immigrants may be paired with different volunteers from different genders, professional levels, or interests according to what stage they are in their acclimatization journey.

Ryushi's user interface has been designed to communicate clearly between participants based on their profiles. In addition to the projection on the table, Ryushi can also be controlled by voice commands. This program is available in various languages and accommodates the users' needs.

FIN.