Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are somewhere in the future though when they will be commonplace on roads is hard to say. Much needs to be done first not only making the driverless vehicles ‘intelligent’ enough to make crucial decisions that affect safety but also the road infrastructure. The former is the job of carmakers and related technology partners while the latter is for local authorities to develop.
Where AV development is concerned, much progress has been made during this decade and such vehicles are already in limited use for public transport in some cities. There are still issues that surface only when real-world conditions are experienced, eg AVs in one city coming to a stop because the 5G network was overloaded, so R&D has to continue.
Honda and GM have been working on AVs together since 2016, along with Cruise, a company which tests and develops AV technology. Cruise has developed an AV known as the Origin which will be built at a GM factory in America. In developing the Origin, GM, Cruise and Honda each brought their unique skillsets and talents to the manufacturing, software and development process.
Joint venture company in Japan
GM will manufacture approximately 500 Origins at its Factory ZERO, which is the launchpad for GM’s multi-brand EV and AV future. The three companies recently announced that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a new joint venture company to launch a driverless ridehail service in Japan starting in early 2026.
First such service in Japan
The service in Japan is expected to be the first of its kind. Japan has the potential to be one of the largest driverless ridehail markets in the world as large cities experience high demand for taxis. There is also a diminishing number of taxi drivers, so such a service – which is not permitted currently – is timely.
Big potential for AVs in Japan
“There is an important and growing societal need for safe and accessible transportation in Japan that autonomous vehicles can provide a solution for,” said Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt. “In addition to societal impact, the business opportunity is also exciting, as Japan represents one of the largest potential autonomous vehicle ridehail markets in the world, with many dense, highly populated cities that have high transportation needs.”
Adding on to what Vogt’s forecast, Toshihiro Mibe, Global CEO of Honda, said: “Through our driverless ride service with Cruise and GM, we will enable customers in Japan to experience a new value of mobility, improve the quality of their mobility experiences and offer the joy of mobility. This will be a major step toward the realization of an advanced mobility society. Providing this service in central Tokyo where the traffic environment is complex will be a great challenge, however, by working jointly with Cruise and GM, Honda will exert further efforts to make it a reality.”
While the Origin is a new vehicle designed to carry up to 6 passengers, Cruise has already been running AVs for ridehail services in 3 cities in America. The AVs are adapted from the Chevrolet Bolt EV and have logged over 100,000 rides covering 8 million driverless kilometres.