Nissan to Launch Autonomous, Ride-Hailing Service Next Month

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Feb. 26, 2018—Nissan is taking its first steps to becoming an operator of autonomous vehicle services, hoping to break into a segment set to be dominated by Uber and other technology firms, according to Reuters.

While automakers for more than a century have based their business models on individual car ownership, Japan’s No. 2 automaker and its rivals are now preparing for a future in which self-driving cars are anticipated to curb vehicle ownership.

In partnership with Japanese mobile gaming platform operator DeNA Co, Nissan will begin public field tests of its Easy Ride service in Yokohama next month, becoming among the first major automakers anywhere to test ride-hailing software developed in-house, using its own fleet of self-driving electric cars.

Easy Ride, which Nissan plans to launch in Japan in the early 2020s, is meant to feel more like a concierge service on wheels, making - for example - restaurant recommendations while the car is on the move.

The announcement follows an agreement by Nissan and its automaking partners Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors Corp earlier this month to explore future cooperation with Chinese transportation services conglomerate Didi Chuxing.

These moves mark a push by the automaker to avoid becoming the “Foxconn of the auto industry”: a mere vehicle supplier to ride- and car-sharing companies.

“We realize that it’s going to take time to become a service operator, but we want to enter into this segment by partnering with companies which are experts in the field,” Nissan’s chief executive, Hiroto Saikawa, told Reuters in an interview this month. A person close to the deal has said that the agreement is intended to explore opportunities for Nissan and others to supply battery-electric cars to Didi Chuxing for a new electric car-sharing service it is setting up in China.

He noted, however, that Nissan and its alliance partners could explore a broader agreement, which might possibly involve Nissan providing self-driving taxi technology to the dominant Chinese ride-hailing service.

“We expect that the technology that we gain (from Easy Ride) will help all companies in the alliance to improve their capabilities,” said Ogi Redzic, head of connected vehicles and mobility services at the automaking group.

“When it comes to services, we will probably have different local partners who will help bring services to their respective markets.”

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