- Nissan announced it is set to launch its own autonomous taxi service next month, in partnership with Japanese mobile and online tech company DeNA. Field tests will begin March 5 in the Minatomirai district of the city of Yokohama. A full service could launch in the early 2020s.
- Participants in the tests will travel in cars outfitted with autonomous driving technology along a set route of 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) between Nissan's global headquarters and the Yokohama World Porters shopping center.
- The new taxi service, known as Easy Ride, will include an app allowing customers to hail a ride, while a tablet in the car will show recommended places of interest and nearby events in addition to downloadable coupons for shops and restaurants in the area.
With rivals like General Motors and ride-hailing apps like Uber getting into the AV ride-hailing space, it was perhaps only a matter of time before Nissan and others would follow suit. Nissan's service, according to a YouTube video, gives riders the ability to talk to an in-car tablet to find recommendations for places to go, and also to determine the route the car takes to their final destination. This futuristic AV offering follows a recently-announced plan from Nissan to develop technology that would allow a vehicle to analyze a driver's brain waves and make independent operating decisions.
The video also shows two children getting into the car and talking to their mother on an app to ask what time she will get home — although the prospect of having children alone in an AV may be a prohibitive one for an American public already appearing reluctant to embrace such technology.
Nissan will likely face stiff competition in Japan, with Sony preparing to launch a taxi-hailing service that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and Uber looking to stake more of a claim on Japanese turf to try and shake off big government regulations on the taxi industry.
But with the marketing aspect clearly a top priority for Nissan, if they can integrate the tech as effectively as promised in their promotional video, it could make them a key player in the AV ride-hailing market.