5 automotive robotics startups to watch in Japan


Robotic automation plays a catalytic factor in Japan’s initiative to reach Industry 4.0. Smart factories will depend on new types of machines, such as collaborative and mobile devices, robots as well as software that are interconnected.

Artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and data analytics will also make industrial robots more reliable than ever. As a growing hub for Information Technology (IT), Japan is also a fertile ground for many well-known startups to flourish, including SkydriveRenesas Electronics and more which we will cover below.


Japan’s Society 5.0 and Industry 4.0

Japan also introduced the idea of Society 5.0, which looks at digitalisation from a societal viewpoint aiming at the ‘Super Smart Society’. IT, especially AI, will change many things in both businesses and our everyday life. Large Japanese companies are already well into digitalisation and innovation, and the same goes for their local startups like Skydrive who aims to launch their first flying car by 2025. This is where the concept of “Connected Industries” comes into play.

The goal of both Society 5.0 and Industry 4.0 enabled robotics is zero downtime and maximum efficiency. As robots use more sensors and become more digitally connected, they will become a lot less susceptible to disruptions, and we can see this play out in growing automotive engineering and automotive manufacturing startups in Japan.

So which startups should you follow within the automotive engineering and automotive manufacturing space?



Developer of the Smart Cockpit technology, Clarion Company is based in Saitama, Japan. It provides solutions for In-Vehicle information systems and has a capital of 20,346 million yen. The company provides driving assistance and internal monitoring system with a navigation interface supported by the Quad View visualisation technology. They have a SurroundEye feature which incorporates computer vision, sonar-based detection, and sensor cleaning. Clarion, acquired by Faurecia, has established a huge international market across Asia, Europe, as well as the Americas in the avenue of autonomous cars.



ZMP is a robotics startup founded in 2001 which launched experimental vehicles with autonomous-driving technology installed as platforms for research and development. Investors include Intel and Sony, who are eager to be leaders within automotive innovation. Last year it teamed up with Sony to make autonomous drones and formed a joint venture with mobile Internet company DeNA to launch a driverless-taxi service.


Tier IV

Tier IV is a provider of open-source software for self-driving technology in Tokyo, Japan. They have managed to raise over 10,985 million yen in a massive Series A funding round. They provide a wide variety of services using the open-source autonomous operating system Autoware. Optimisation of architecture by domain-driven design has led to the development of their service and they utilise the salient feature of Fleet Management System (FMS) to power the automatic operation of the car.


Renesas Electronics

Renesas is a public startup based in Tokyo, Japan. Renesas Electronics has recently entered the autonomous vehicle market with its Automotive System Development Division. It has combined its R-car automated Soc (system-on-chip) with this new framework to provide automated driving assistance. One of Renesas Electronics clients include Nissan Motors who have adopted this high performance automotive technology. has adopted this high-performance automotive technology.

Renesas has also decided to re-launch its successful R-Car Gen3 with the “R-Car Gen3e” series to become more cost-effective, increasing CPU performance, heightening user experience, security, and safety improvements.



SkyDrive, a Japanese startup established in 2012 succeeded in Japan's first indoor manned flight test in 2019, and unveiled its small, one-seater model, SD-03 in 2020. The SD-03 can fly for about 10 minutes at a speed of 50km per hour with a total of eight propellers installed in its four corners. SkyDrive also managed to raise 4,064 million yen in a Series B funding, demonstrating the strong faith that investors have placed in the project.

The Japanese government has set a goal of realising a flight with passengers on board by 2025, and venture companies are leading the development of the vehicles.

With the government’s plan to use flying cars as a means of transportation between Kansai International Airport and the Expo site, which is nearly 30km away, and both domestic and foreign manufacturers, including SkyDrive, are working on the development of such vehicles.


Progressive Recruitment provides automotive recruitment solutions

Industry 4.0 and Japan’s Society 5.0 will induce a continuous wave of technological innovation in the country. If you are a startup like Clarion, Skydrive or Groove X looking to onboard the right talent in automotive engineering or automotive manufacturing in robotics, or if you’re a professional within these industries and are looking out for an opportunity to move, we can help.

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