Robotaxis, robotaxis everywhere!
If you’ve been keeping up with news about self-driving, you’ve likely seen that, while Tesla continues to push its own self-driving technology forward for its FSD Beta customers, other companies like Waymo and Cruise continue to push their own versions of self-driving in the form of robotaxi services. While Elon Musk promises that Tesla vehicles will eventually be able to perform such a robotaxi service — even earning money for their owners when they don’t need the vehicle — Waymo and Cruise still hold that market.
Today, Cruise announced that it is expanding its robotaxi service to a new market: Japan. The company has revealed that it has entered into a new joint venture with both General Motors and Honda to bring the driverless taxi service to the country. Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt said in a statement that Japan “represents one of the largest potential autonomous vehicle ride-hail markets in the world.”
“There is an important and growing societal need for safe and accessible transportation in Japan that autonomous vehicles can provide a solution for. 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.”
With GM and Honda, the company is creating a new version of the Cruise Origin, which will hold up to six passengers with “camp-fire seating,” meaning that the seats will be configured in a circle rather than all pointing towards the “driver’s” seat. GM will be manufacturing the vehicles at its Factory ZERO Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant in Michigan and has committed to building 500 of them for the launch of the service. We don’t know much else about the new vehicle yet, so we’ll have to wait until Cruise, GM, and Honda are ready to share more.
GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra basically said in a statement that “the benefits of AVs — from safety to accessibility — are too profound to ignore.”
GM has always been invested in defining the future of transportation and that’s more true today than ever. The benefits of AVs — from safety to accessibility — are too profound to ignore and through this important partnership with Cruise and Honda, we’re bringing forward innovation that leverages our expertise in cutting-edge software and hardware to help more people around the world get where they need to go.
Global CEO of Honda, Toshihiro Mibe, echoed Vogt and Barra, calling the joint venture “a major step toward the realization of an advanced mobility society.”
Honda is striving to create the “joy and freedom of mobility.” 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.
So, when will you be able to catch a Cruise robotaxi making its way through the streets of Tokyo? Unfortunately, the launch is going to take a bit. The company says that its current goal is to start testing in 2025 before officially launching the service in central Tokyo in early 2026, so we all have a bit of a wait before we’re whisked away by the machines.
The announcement comes just over a week after Cruise competitor Waymo announced that it was expanding its own robotaxi service, Waymo One, to San Francisco in the United States. If Tesla is actually to make good on Musk’s promise that you can turn your car into a robotaxi and make money from it, the robotaxi industry is going to absolutely explode. We’ll see what happens!