If you have been following the autonomous vehicle sector you will know the prominent names such as Waymo, Alphabet's autonomous vehicle research division, Didi Chuxing, China's rideshare company that opened an AV research center in California, Uber, and Lyft, two leading rideshare companies in the US that have invested billions in AV research, GM, a US car manufacturer and SoftBank, a leading Japanese investment company that invested heavily in rideshare companies and AV research.
These are names of only a few of the major players in the AV market that are spending billions every year with claims that a fully driverless car will be operational by 2019.
Now Japan's Nissan joins the scene by announcing on Tuesday that it will test its first AV Taxi's in Yokohama in March 2018. The tests will use their Leaf electric cars, and this will be the first major testing of Japanese AV technology.
As with Waymo, Uber, and GM, Nissan's tests will start with a passenger driver overseeing the performance during the tests. Once the tests are complete, the company plans to release an autonomous Taxi service called "Easy Ride." The Taxi service will operate very similar to how rideshare companies operate. There will be an app for customers to book and hail an AV taxi. Nissan stated that it expects and hopes that their full public accessible "Easy Rider" service will be up and running by 2022.
Nissan has not been working on this alone; they are partnered with Japanese high-tech company DeNA, which tested self-driving buses earlier this year in some of Japan's rural areas.
Nissan is not alone in Japan in its pursuit for a fully autonomous driving solution, ZMP; a Japanese robotics company is collaborating with a Tokyo based taxi service to develop by 2020, Tokyo Olympics, an AV taxi service for the games.
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Our take is that a lot of dates ranging from 2019 to 2022 are being bandied about from all the various players in the AV market. We foresee that within the next 5 years there will be AV's in various forms and sizes, all aimed at passenger transportation across the globe. The impact of these initial vehicles will contribute to a massive change in how the regulators slowly ease out human-driven cars. This might take over two decades, but eventually, for the sake of safety, economics and the environment, current car's will be phased out, being replaced by quiet electric autonomous vehicles.