At a time when self-driving cars pose as a potential risk to vehicle ownership in the future, Nissan Motor Co has starting initiating its operations of autonomous transportation services. Nissan, in partnership with DeNa Co, a Japanese mobile gaming platform operator will start the public field tests of its Easy Rise service in Yokohama from next month.
The company will be the first major automaker to test in-house developed, ride-hailing software using its own fleet of self-driving electric cars.
The company plans to launch Easy Ride in Japan in the early 2020s and the service is supposed to feel like a concierge service on wheels, like making restaurant recommendations while the car is on the move.
The announcement of the launch comes after an agreement between Nissan and its auto-making partners Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors Corp earlier to explore future cooperation with Chinese transportation services conglomerate Didi Chuxing.
The steps can be viewed as Nissan’s attempt to carve a place for themselves in a segment that looks set to be dominated by Uber Technologies and other technology firms and to avoid becoming a mere vehicle supplier to ride- and car-sharing companies.
“We realise 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,” Nissan’s chief executive, Hiroto Saikawa, told Reuters in an interview this month.
A person involved in the deal has said that the agreement is intended to explore opportunities for Nissan and others to supply battery-electric cars to Didi Chuxing for a new electric car-sharing service it is setting up in China.
He noted however that Nissan and its alliance partners could explore a broader agreement, which might possibly involve Nissan providing self-driving taxi technology to the dominant Chinese ride-hailing service.