Nissan aims to launch robotaxi service by 2027

While many automakers have given up on their earlier ambitions to develop their own self-driving technology, Nissan is pushing ahead and plans to launch a robotaxi service this decade.

The automaker last week said it aims to have a commercial robotaxi service in operation by 2027. The first location has been confirmed as the Minato Mirai area close to Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama, Japan.

Nissan has been developing self-driving technology for more than a decade and has been running robotaxi trials in Japan and abroad since 2017, under the Easy Ride banner. For the service targeted to launch in 2027, Nissan will start a trial at Minato Mirai later this year and gradually scale it up ahead of the launch of the commercial service.

Nissan will use its Leaf electric car as the basis of its robotaxis. The cars will rank at Level 4 on the SAE scale of self-driving capability, Nissan said. This means they can operate for extended periods without the need for a human driver, though they are still limited to certain conditions, the main one typically being a geofenced area in which they can operate.

Nissan Easy Ride robotaxi prototype

Robotaxi services already in operation like Waymo’s Waymo One service in the U.S. and Baidu’s Apollo Go service in China also operate at Level 4 capability. Level 5 is the ultimate goal. It’s where a self-driving car can operate at the same level as a human.

Nissan said the robotaxi service is aimed at increasing the availability of mobility options, which will be particularly useful in countries like Japan, which due to a shrinking population is facing a driver shortage at the same time its aging population is requiring more ride services.

Developing a safe and reliable robotaxi service continues to be a huge challenge. A number of promising companies in the segment have backed out of the race, including Argo AI and Uber. General Motors-backed Cruise also had a service running in San Francisco until late last year, when it was forced to stop the service after California’s DMV determined the company’s robotaxis to be unsafe for public operation. Cruise hasn’t said when its service will begin operating again.