The companies aim to officially launch a full service in the early 2020s. The world has yet to see a hailing service for a self-driving taxi, so "we are going to learn about some of the things that maybe we can't foresee without actual testing," said Ogi Redzic, senior vice president of the existing alliance among Nissan, Renault SA of France and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., during a news conference in Yokohama. The field experiment for the self-driving taxi service, which will be named Easy Ride, will take participants on a 4.5 kilometer electric vehicle tour around Nissan's headquarters in the Minato Mirai area of Yokohama between March 5 and March 18. Although this is an autonomous driving experiment, someone will be sitting in the driver's seat because an existing law bans driving without anyone in front of the wheel. But the person will just be seated there and let the car drive itself, the companies said.
A venture firm and a major taxi company began trials of passenger-carrying autonomous taxi services on Monday with an eye on launching the full service around 2020 when Tokyo hosts the Olympics and the Paralympics. ZMP Inc., a Tokyo-based developer of autonomous driving technology, and Hinomaru Kotsu Co., said they are the first in the world to offer autonomous taxi services to fare-paying passengers in the test through Sept. 8. The initiative comes as automakers and other businesses at home and abroad compete in the development of autonomous vehicles. General Motors Co. and Waymo, a spinoff of tech giant Google, have started tests on public roads in the United States, while Nissan Motor Co. and DeNA Co. conducted tests on a ride-hailing service in Yokohama in March. In the passenger trial by ZMP and Hinomaru, a minivan equipped with sensors and other autonomous technologies makes four round trips a day between commercial facilities in Tokyo's Otemachi and Roppongi districts, which are about 5.3 kilometers apart.
In a bid to keep up with its rivals including Tesla and Google, Nissan has announced its plans to bring real-world demonstrations of autonomous vehicles to the UK. The on-road demonstrations will take place in London in February, where passengers will be able to experience the technology in a modified Nissan LEAF. The demonstrations mark the first time Nissan's autonomous drive technology will be showcased on public roads in Europe. Since December, Nissan has been using driverless cars to tow other vehicles around its production facility in Japan. The technology is currently being tested at Nissan's Oppama production in in Yokohama, near Tokyo.