The trial only covers a limited route, but Nissan aims to launch a full autonomous ride-hailing service in the early 2020s.
Joining the likes of Ford, Uber, and General Motors, Nissan is the latest company to offer a self-driving ride-hailing service. The Japanese automaker has announced a partnership with Japanese mobile platform company DenA to modify the last-generation Leaf electric car and will be trialing its new self-driving taxi service in the automaker's hometown of Yokohama, Japan, from March 5. The service, called Easy Ride, will enable participants to travel in Nissan Leafs equipped with the autonomous driving technology along a set route.
The route spans around 2.5 miles between Nissan's global headquarters and the Yokohama World Porters shopping center. Nissan says it's working with Dena to eventually expand its service route, however. Nissan describes Easy Ride as "a mobility service for anyone who wants to travel freely to their destination of choice in a robo-vehicle."
The self-driving Nissan Leaf taxi utilizes six laser scanners, 14 cameras and a radar system to help it navigate the streets autonomously. Using a dedicated mobile app, passengers can hail one of Nissan's self-driving cars via text or voice and choose from a list of recommended destinations. According to Nissan, an in-car tablet screen will show selections of nearly 500 recommended places of interest and events in the vicinity, making it ideal for tourists. Local retailers and restaurants will also be able to offer exclusive coupons to customers using the Easy Ride app.
The trial run will allow Nissan to find out how passengers rate the experience, how much they use the coupons for local retailers and restaurants, and their preferred pricing for the Easy Ride service. Nissan aims to launch a full Easy Ride service in the early 2020s – presumably the US will be part of its expansion plan.