GM and Honda team up for Japanese robotaxis
JV to offer shared cabin autonomous ridehailing beginning in Tokyo in 2026
US legacy automaker GM will partner with its autonomous vehicle subsidiary Cruise and Japanese OEM Honda to bring an autonomous ridehailing service to Japan.
The companies expect a new joint venture (JV) be established in 2024 and, according to Honda, autonomous ride services will begin in central Tokyo in early 2026.
“Japan has the potential to be one of the largest driverless ridehail markets in the world as large cities experience high demand for taxis. The region also has a growing need for new forms of transportation, with ongoing driver shortages and an increasing need for accessible forms of transportation,” says GM.
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“It is an engineer’s dream to see life-changing technologies become a reality, and I am so excited to see how technology is changing how people move and making transportation more accessible,” says Jaclyn McQuaid, president of GM Europe.
The project will use the Cruise Origin, an all-electric vehicle designed specifically for autonomous transportation without a driver’s seat or steering wheel. The vehicle seats six passengers sitting face-to-face, differing from the modified Chevrolet Bolt BEVs currently used by Cruise in its autonomous ridehailing service in San Francisco.
Autonomous vehicles (AVs) eliminate the need for space for a driver, and the Origin’s design accounts for this. So the JV’s bet on the six-seater shared cabin therefore suggests that the long-term vision for the project is to remain in robotaxi or shuttle services, as opposed to bringing Level 4 or 5 autonomy to vehicles on the private market.
Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt says that the company has already been testing AVs in Japan, but not yet the Origin, which he says will begin testing in 2024.
The service will start with “dozens” of Cruise Origins before expanding to a fleet of 500. The three companies also plan subsequently to expand and scale the service to areas outside of central Tokyo, Honda says.
Cruise hangs its hat on its safety statistics. The company claims that its vehicles reduce collisions by 54pc and also touts 92pc fewer collisions in which its AV was the primary contributor. Cruise’s safety data also suggests that 94pc of collisions involving its cars “were caused by the other party”.
However, in recent days the company’s San Franisco operations have come under investigation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after reports that its AVs encroached on pedestrians on roadways and crosswalks.
In August, Cruise also agreed to cut its fleet of San Francisco robotaxis in half as authorities investigated two crashes in the city.
The JV is pending regulatory approval, discussions of which are sure to feature recent safety concern heavily, considering the challenge of bedding autonomous driving into unfamiliar urban environments.
“Providing this service in central Tokyo where the traffic environment is complex will be a great challenge. However, by working jointly with Cruise and GM, Honda will exert further efforts to make it a reality,” says Toshihiro Mibe, global CEO of Honda.