Nissan will begin trials of a new autonomous taxi service in Japan starting March 5. Called Easy Ride, the service offers users of the app a “robo-vehicle” that also behaves like a concierge, making suggestions along its route. The service was co-developed with DeNA, one of Japan’s largest mobile app and e-commerce platform companies.
To start, the Easy Ride app allows users to hail a taxi, which, based on photos and video, will take the form of a Nissan NV200 taxi or a new Leaf. The cars are fully autonomous and have no drivers, and in the trial phase are set to drive along a predetermined route. In this case, that route is a 2.8 mile loop between Nissan headquarters and the World Porters shopping center at Yokohama Station, a major travel hub about an hour south of Tokyo.
Nissan and Dena Easy Ride self-driving taxi serviceEnlarge Photo
Once passengers are in the cab, they can ask the app for suggestions, such as restaurants or tourist spots. Recommendations are ranked and communicated via a touchscreen in the car, and can communicate in multiple languages. During the trip, music selection and other personalization options are available.
As for the “robo-vehicle” part, the app allows you to reserve pickup times, tell the car to circle the block for a few minutes as you browse a store, or communicate with other users.
Despite the short route currently available in the testing phase, there are 500 businesses already available in the concierge part of the app. Businesses can offer promotions and coupons as well. It’s as if Lyft and Yelp joined forces.
Nissan’s announcement comes hot on the heels of a variety of services seeking to app-ize Japan’s many taxi fleets. Toyota and hailing app JapanTaxi announced a partnership February 8, and this week Sony announced a partnership with five major taxi companies.