Driverless taxis to hit Japan in 2026

General Motors (GM), in collaboration with Cruise and Honda, has embarked on an ambitious venture to launch a driverless ride-hailing service in Japan, with the target of commencing operations in early 2026. A memorandum of understanding has been signed to establish a joint venture for this initiative, with plans to officially create the company in the first half of 2024, contingent on obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals.

Read: Elgato has launched a teleprompter made for streaming

The ride-hailing service will deploy the Cruise Origin electric shuttle van, a groundbreaking self-driving vehicle co-developed by the three companies. The Cruise Origin stands out for its unique design, devoid of a steering wheel, driver’s seat, pedals, or even a rearview mirror.

The interior of the Origin is a spacious cabin capable of accommodating up to six passengers, who sit facing one another. Its doors open with a sliding motion, much like those on a subway train. GM has highlighted the significant potential of introducing this ride-hailing service in Japan, suggesting it could alleviate the country’s persistent driver shortage and offer a convenient alternative for individuals who are unable to use Tokyo’s extensive train and subway network.

While the project is still in its early stages, the companies have laid out their vision for the endeavour. They aim to roll out dozens of Cruise Origins in central Tokyo by 2026 and eventually expand the fleet to include 500 Origins. Subsequently, they plan to extend the service to areas beyond the city centre. Much like other ride-hailing services, passengers will have the option to summon an Origin through a dedicated mobile app and conveniently make payments for their rides.