Nissan self-driving taxi service starts in Tokyo on March 5

Nissan will launch its first public trial of a self-driving taxi service in Tokyo, Japan on March 5, the automaker confirmed Friday.

The service, called Easy Ride, will see a handful of self-driving Nissan Leaf electric cars ferry passengers on a set route between Nissan’s headquarters and the Yokohama World Porters shopping center.

The route only spans about 2.5 miles but will be expanded at a later date. Nissan, which is running the trial in partnership with Japanese telecommunications firm Dena, says the goal is to launch a much wider service by the early 2020s. The video gives a taste of what a future with self-driving cars will be like, albeit with Nissan’s e-NV200 electric van as opposed to the Leaf.

Nissan and Dena Easy Ride self-driving taxi service

Using an app on their smartphone, users can book or order one of Nissan’s self-driving cars. The app will also enable the user to choose from hundreds of recommended destinations, which would be ideal for tourists. It also supports voice activation with multiple languages. Local merchants can also advertise via the app and offer discounts and special offers to users.

Nissan is currently testing self-driving cars that can handle door-to-destination journeys. The automaker is confident of having the technology ready by as early as 2020.

Waymo is a step ahead as the Alphabet-owned business formerly known as the Google Self-Driving Car Project will start a commercial self-driving taxi in Phoenix, Arizona this year. Waymo is also testing self-driving cars across 25 additional cities in the United States, including Atlanta, San Francisco, Metro Detroit, and Kirkland, Washington.

General Motors is another leader in the self-driving car space. The automaker in January unveiled a self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV devoid of a steering wheel and pedals. The plan is to start testing the cars on public roads in 2019, though getting regulatory approval has been a little more difficult for GM due to its fleet being made up of cars without steering wheels or pedals.

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