Japan is poised to emerge as a focal point for autonomous vehicles in the coming years

Graham Hope

March 1, 2024

3 Min Read
Nissan

Japanese automaker Nissan has confirmed its intention to launch a commercial self-driving taxi service in its home country by 2027.

The announcement came as the company published a detailed road map outlining its plans.

The first significant step will come later this year or early in 2025, as testing of autonomous vehicles (AVs) gets underway in the Minato Mirai area of Yokohama, a city of nearly 4 million located south of Tokyo.

The vehicles, based on the Serena minivan, will use autonomous tech developed in-house by Nissan.

The initial trials will be scaled up in the 2025-2026 fiscal year, with Nissan also taking the opportunity to “enhance” the level of autonomous functionality, as well as studying how customers might adapt to the idea of driverless transport.

By 2026, demonstrations of the service are planned to be up and running in three different areas of Yokohama, with Kannai and Sakuragi-cho joining Minato Mirai.  A total of 20 vehicles will be used in the demos, although all will feature safety drivers on board at this stage.

By the 2027 fiscal year, Nissan says it aims to start providing commercial services in “three to four” municipalities – including rural areas – with “tens of cars” being deployed. It is not clear, though, if the cars will be Serena-based, as the press materials issued by Nissan to accompany the announcement feature an autonomous version of its electric Leaf instead.

Related:Japan is One Step Closer to Launching Driverless Vehicles

The program will be promoted in tandem with several different Japanese authorities, including the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and other central ministries.

Japan has been keen to introduce autonomous transport, pushing legislation through over the past couple of years, to address labor shortages and provide mobility solutions for elderly people in rural areas.

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Nissan’s road map comes following a period of extensive testing of AVs and business models for mobility services that stretches back to 2017.

Over the past seven years, it has been tested in Minato Mirai, as well as in Namie, a town of just over 1,000 people in the prefecture of Fukushima, where a manned mobility service has been in operation since 2021.

Outside of Japan, it has been working with the British government in a research initiative called evolvAD to assess the potential of AVs in cities and outside of major population centers.

Japan is likely to become a focus for AVs over the next few years. 

In October 2023, Honda and General Motors announced that they were planning to launch self-driving taxis in Tokyo, with 2026 earmarked for the arrival of Cruise’s purpose-built self-driving Origin. But the future of this project must now be in question, following Cruise’s dramatic fall from grace.

Related:Nissan Takes Lead on Self-Driving Performance Test

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About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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