Nissan plans driverless ride-share service for aging population by 2027

Changing times: Japan is facing a shortage of suburban taxi and bus services due to an aging population, according a Nissan corporate officer. — AFP

Nissan Motor Co is planning an autonomous vehicle ride-share service for Japan in three years to address a dearth of taxi drivers amid the nation’s greying population.

The company, which will begin a trial service in Yokohama using a Serena-based vehicle, aims to have the programme running nationwide by fiscal year 2027, Kazuhiro Doi, vice-president of Nissan Research and Advanced Engineering, said during a briefing at the company’s Yokohama headquarters.

The trial will involve 20 vehicles with a safety monitor in the driver’s seat in Yokohama’s Minato Mirai area. Passengers will be able to make reservations for the service.

Nissan will hold safety-related discussions with the government and proceed gradually, Doi said.

Nissan’s programme comes amid growing concerns over autonomous vehicles. In December, General Motors Co’s Cruise autonomous driving unit dismissed top executives following an incident in which one of its cars struck and dragged a pedestrian for 6m in San Francisco.

Honda Motor Co cast doubt on a previously announced plan to deploy self-driving cars in central Tokyo by early 2026 in partnership with GM.

Japan’s transport ministry has formed a committee to work with local governments and other stakeholders to lay the groundwork for self-driving vehicles.

“Japan is facing a big transportation-related problem, which will get bigger in the future,” Doi said. There is a lack of suburban taxi and bus services due to a decreasing and aging population. “A time may come when there are no more drivers.” — Bloomberg

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