Nissan and DeNa are all set to begin testing of its Easy Ride automated taxi service in Yokohama’s Minatomirai district, with test runs set to begin on March 5. That’s according to a joint press release published to Nissan’s official newsroom on February 23. The vehicles will be heavily supervised from a dedicated remote monitoring center and vehicles will remain on a designated 4.5-kilometer – around 2.8 miles – route running between Nissan’s global headquarters and the Yokohama World Porters shopping center. Primarily tests will center around putting the vehicle’s built-in customer functionality through its paces and garnering feedback about the experience. However, the company is also going to be surveying participating riders about prospective service costs and various coupon offerings associated with businesses along the route. That will help the partnership nail down price structure and offers that will benefit future riders, as well as improving the overall experience and making any required adjustments for efficiency, safety, and comfort.
With regard to the experience itself, Nissan says that the companies will be using a dedicated mobile application that passengers can download to interact with test vehicles. Ride-hailing appears to be similar to Uber and users will be able to call a ride and assign input selections through either voice or text. The app will recommend destinations – as shown in the associated YouTube spot, included below – based on where the user wants to go. Meanwhile, a dedicated display in the vehicle itself will act as an intermediary between phone and vehicle, as well as showing nearby locations of interest and local events. For the tests, almost 500 recommendations will be available and customers will have access to 40 discount coupons for shopping and eateries on the route.
One other interesting aspect of the project is not discussed in the press release but shown in the above-mentioned video. Namely, it appears that one of the goals appears to be to provide a way for those who aren’t eligible to drive because of age or qualification restrictions to achieve mobility. This test should give the two companies plenty of data to improve the experience as they push toward that goal. If all goes well, the companies hope that the added freedom to travel without the stress of driving and the recommendation functionality will genuinely enrich and energize the areas where it introduces Easy Ride. In the meantime, they plan to step up to a more fleshed out the service later on, with full services available across a much wider area by early 2020. Included in that, according to the announcement, will be further research and development of services for driverless environments and multilingual support, in addition to improving drop off and pickup processes.