Nissan has announced that its driverless taxis are to undergo tests in actual road conditions in Yokohama, Japan next March over a two-week period.
Automotive manufacturer Nissan announced on 2 January that its "robot taxis" are to be trialled in genuine conditions in March 2018. These tests will be carried out on public roads in the Japanese city of Yokohama near Tokyo, with two specially-equipped electric models of the Nissan Leaf being used as taxis for volunteer passengers. The Japanese manufacturer said to Reuters that it hoped to introduce an on-demand driverless electric vehicle service by 2020.
Driverless taxis booked via an app
Known as "Easy Ride", the future Nissan driverless taxis are set to be introduced in time for the Tokyo Olympics. The automotive company has been working in partnership with DeNA, a Japanese firm specialising in mobile technologies, to develop autonomous driving software. According to a Nissan spokesperson, these driverless taxis will eventually be available "in a city where it makes sense and where we will obtain the necessary authorisations".
The first tests will be carried out from 5 –18 March in Minato Mirai, which is the business district of the city of Yokohama. Nissan’s global headquarters will serve as the starting point for the experiment, which will see driverless taxis making journeys in everyday traffic conditions. The vehicles will be two electric models of the Nissan Leaf fitted with sensors and cameras, and volunteers from the general public will be able to book trips for free using an app.
Drivers present to ensure safety during the tests
Spokesperson Tomoyuki Akiyama pointed out that during the experimental phase, the volunteers would be accompanied, saying that: "due to regulations, a safety driver will have to be present behind the wheel during the tests". As well as having an emergency driver, the testers will also benefit from artificial intelligence on board, enabling them to suggest routes via voice activation, according to French magazine Auto Plus.
Akiyama added that the service would adapt itself to user demand, saying that "people can ask it to find a pancake restaurant or karaoke bar nearby", and that the on-road tests will enable the Japanese auto giant "to evaluate the levels of acceptance among the general public for this new type of urban mobility".
Other manufacturers are working on similar projects, in particular Japanese robot designers ZMP, who are also hoping to run a driverless vehicle service in Tokyo in partnership with a taxi firm.
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