Nissan begins public field tests for its autonomous vehicle services, Easy Ride in Yokohama, Japan

Analysts at IHS Markit see global autonomous vehicle sale touching 33 million units ub 2040, while Goldman Sachs has predicted that the ride-hailing market will grow 800% by 2030 and be five times the size of the current taxi market.

In a strategic development, Nissan Motor Co has taken the first steps towards becoming an operator of autonomous vehicle services.

The step underscores Japan’s No. 2 automaker, shift its business model from the traditional business model of individual car ownership to self-driving cars, which are likely to curb vehicle ownerships.

Nissan, in partnership with DeNA Co, a Japanese mobile gaming platform, will now begin public field tests of its Easy Ride service in Yokohama in March 2018.

This feather in its cap makes Nissan the first major automaker to test in-house developed rise-hailing software on its own fleet of self-driving electric cars.

Its Easy Ride, which the carmaker plan on launching in Japan in the early 2020s, is meant to provide the feel of a concierge on wheels.

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.

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,” said Hiroto Saikawa, Nissan’s CEO.

As per a source close to the deal, the purpose of the agreement is to facilitate the exploration of opportunities for Nissan and others to supply electric cars to Didi Chuxing for setting up an electric car-sharing service in China.

He went on to note, Nissan and its alliance partners could possibly even broaden the scope of the agreement, which could 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.”

The strategy of creating an upscale autonomous self-driving fleet rather than beat other ride-services company on prices, could enable Nissan to compete with bigger players in this market, including Uber Technologies, said experts.

By doing something with a more premium feel, it could allow Nissan to charge more for its service and potentially relieve some of that profitability pressure they could face if they were to try to race to the bottom in terms of pricing,” said Jeremy Carlson, automotive analyst at IHS Markit.

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