Traveling freely to your choice of destination in a robot vehicle is envisioned as a mobility service. Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. is taking its first steps to becoming an operator of autonomous transportation services with DeNA Co., Ltd.; the automaker will begin a field test of Easy Ride, the robot-vehicle mobility service being developed by both companies, on March 5.
In an interview this month, Nissan’s chief executive, Hiroto Saikawa mentioned, “We realize that it’s going to take time to become a service operator, but we want to enter into this segment by partnering with companies which are experts in the field.”
The public field test will be carried on in the Minatomirai district of Yokohama; the field test will enable the participants to travel in vehicles equipped with autonomous driving technology along with a set route. The route covers a distance of 4.5 kilometers between Yokohama World Porters shopping center and Nissan’s global headquarters.
For an efficient service to its customers, Nissan and DeNA have set up a monitoring center that uses advanced technologies. Through a dedicated mobile app, passengers can input what they want to do via text or voice and choose from a list of recommended destinations. Nearly 500 recommended places of interest and events in the vicinity are shown to the customers provided in an in-car tablet screen. To add to it 40 discount coupons for retailers and restaurants in the area are available for download on the participants’ own smartphones.
Easy Ride test vehicle participants will have to complete surveys about their overall user experience, usage of content and coupons from local retailers and restaurants, and preferred pricing for the Easy Ride service. The survey result then will be used to develop for future field tests.
The field test will help both companies to learn from the experience as both companies look toward future commercial endeavors. Services like driverless environments, expanded service routes, vehicle distribution logic, pick-up/drop-off processes and multilingual support will also be developed by Nissan and DeNA. The company intends to introduce a full service in the early 2020s.
Thus, market experts say, creating an upmarket autonomous taxi service, could help Nissan against bigger competitors like Uber, rather than trying to beat other companies on price.