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Nissan Motor said it will test an autonomous ride-hailing service on public roads in Japan in March, aiming to officially start the “robot taxi” rides in the early 2020s. The carmaker will put two Leaf electric cars, equipped with sensors and cameras and autonomous driving software developed by DeNA, on roads in a designated part of Yokohama, where Nissan is based. Nissan will seek the general public to participate as passengers, through a booking application on smartphones, said Kazumasa Fujita, a manager at Nissan’s corporate strategy department. The trial is the first concrete step in Nissan and DeNA’s joint robot taxi project, which was announced in January.
The cars will be more advanced than Nissan’s current semi-autonomous system known as ProPilot, which enables single lane automated driving on highways. DeNA cancelled its partnership with Japanese start-up ZMP to join Nissan in the project. Nissan said a driver will sit behind the steering wheel during the test, though the vehicles will handle the driving mostly by themselves. The test service, named Easy Ride, will last two weeks, the firms said in a joint statement.