GM and Honda partner for autonomous ride service in Japan

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General Motors (GM) and Honda, in collaboration with Cruise, GM’s autonomous driving subsidiary, have formed an agreement to establish an autonomous ride-hailing company in Japan. This innovative venture will leverage the Cruise Origin autonomous vehicle to offer rides in Tokyo, Japan’s bustling metropolis. The service is scheduled to commence in 2026.

The Cruise Origin, an electric vehicle manufactured by GM in Detroit, stands out for its unique design – it lacks a steering wheel, pedals, or space for a human driver. Honda played a pivotal role in the vehicle’s development alongside Cruise and GM. Introduced to the public in 2020, this autonomous vehicle can accommodate up to six passengers who sit facing each other.

GM has committed to producing 500 Cruise Origin vehicles for the Tokyo ride-hailing service, making it the pioneering autonomous ride-hailing service in Japan. Notably, Cruise, a GM subsidiary, has been substantially supported by Honda as a significant investor since 2018. Cruise specializes in the development of autonomous driving technology and currently conducts testing and limited ride-hailing services using modified Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles.

As part of their plan, Cruise will initially refine and test its autonomous vehicle software in Tokyo using vehicles akin to the Chevrolet Bolt-based autonomous cars that are operational in San Francisco, Phoenix, and Austin in the United States. These vehicles are equipped with steering wheels and pedals, allowing human drivers to take control if necessary.

Cruise’s CEO, Kyle Vogt, expressed confidence in the readiness of the joint-venture company to operate the fully autonomous Origin vehicles by the planned launch in 2026. While operating in Japan presents unique challenges, such as driving on the left side of the road, as opposed to the right in the United States, Vogt believes the vehicles and software can adapt effectively.

The introduction of this driverless ride service in Japan will address the growing demand for transportation services in a nation grappling with a shortage of taxi drivers. Additionally, there is a pressing need for more accessible transportation options for the elderly, disabled individuals, and those who are too young to drive.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan is facing an unprecedented demographic shift, with the elderly population, defined as those aged 65 and above, reaching a record high of 29.1% of the total population. This makes Japan’s aging demographic the most significant in the world.

The collaboration between Honda and GM extends beyond this autonomous venture, with both companies working together on various projects, including hydrogen fuel cell development. Furthermore, Honda is gearing up to produce and market electric vehicles in the United States, drawing on GM’s engineering expertise.

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