Time is off the essence.
Despite what you've heard on the news or from auto marketing teams, driverless cars do not yet exist and may not be a thing for quite some time. That said, autonomous taxis and delivery vehicles are already roaming the streets in select cities across the country, and now a division of Honda Motor Company is looking to expand the tech in Japan. The automaker signed a memorandum of understanding with two Japanese transportation providers to work toward an autonomous taxi service in Tokyo.
Teito Motor Transportation Company and kokusai motorcars Company signed an MoU with Honda Mobility Solutions (HMS), which formed in 2020 to design and run mobility programs in Japan. In addition to transportation programs, the business unit is tasked with working on urban congestion, traffic safety, and emissions. Its project with the two major taxi service providers aims to launch an autonomous mobility service in central Tokyo by the middle of this decade. The trio will study local laws and observe the best ways to distribute responsibilities across various partners.
Honda plans to use the Cruise Origin for its mobility services. The vehicle, developed jointly with General Motors, is designed to provide autonomous taxi services. It lacks a steering wheel, pedals, and other components that a human needs to drive a car, creating a space that Cruise says is "an experience purely designed around the rider."
The collaborative project in Japan follows autonomous transport testing in various cities across the United States. Cruise is running autonomous taxi programs in San Francisco and other areas, where a self-driving Chevy Bolt recently had a hilarious, somewhat alarming run-in with the law.
Autonomous taxi or bus lines provide a good starting point for integrating vehicles into cities and commuters' daily lives. Slow-moving EVs traveling a consistent route in a defined geographic area lets companies like Cruise and HMS work out the kinks in the system while exposing the public to driverless vehicles in a mostly safe fashion.
Japanese streets are about to become a lot more interesting. We know that Honda's already on its way to testing vehicles in parts of the country this year. The automaker is using a fleet of Chevy Bolts to create high-definition maps of defined areas in certain cities. Once mapping is complete, the autonomous tax vehicles can begin testing for safety and performance.