Autonomous motoring and driverless taxis are just around the corner, with the motor industry ploughing millions into new technologies that will change the way we travel.
Nissan Motor Co and DeNA Ltd. announced this week that on March 5 they will begin a field test of ‘Easy Ride’, a robo-vehicle mobility service being developed by both companies.
Easy Ride is envisioned as a mobility service for anyone who wants to travel freely to their destination of choice in a robo-vehicle.
During the field test, in the Minatomirai district of Yokohama, the participants will be able to travel in vehicles equipped with autonomous driving technology along a set route. The route spans about 4.5 kilometres between Nissan’s global headquarters and the Yokohama World Porters shopping centre.
A remote monitoring centre will ensure ‘efficient fleet operation and customers’ peace of mind’.
Using a dedicated mobile app, passengers can input what they want to do via text or voice and choose from a list of recommended destinations.
An in-car tablet screen will show selections of nearly 500 recommended places of interest and events in the vicinity. Additionally, about 40 discount coupons for retailers and restaurants in the area are available for download on the participants’ own smartphones.
Participants will be asked to complete a survey about their overall user experience, usage of content and coupons from local retailers and restaurants, and preferred pricing for the Easy Ride service. Nissan and DeNA will use the survey results as they continue to develop the offering, and for future field tests.
Nissan and DeNA will also work to develop service designs for driverless environments, expanded service routes, vehicle distribution logic, pick-up/drop-off processes and multilingual support. The companies aim to launch Easy Ride in a limited environment at first, and then introduce a full service in the early 2020s.
The promotional video, showing how the driverless cars operate can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjPUnAt3PSA
European manufacturers are cooperating more closely with car makers in the far east: the BMW Group revealed this week that it is in advanced discussions to ramp up the global success of its MINI brand through a new joint venture in China. A key element of the brand’s continued strategic development will be local production of future battery-electric MINI vehicles in the world’s largest market for electromobility.
To this end, the Group has signed a “letter of intent” with the Chinese manufacturer Great Wall Motor. In addition to production of the first battery electric MINI at the main plant in Oxford starting in 2019, this signals a further clear commitment to the electrified future of the MINI brand.
Next steps will be to agree on the details of a possible joint venture and cooperation agreement and clarify aspects such as the choice of production location and concrete investments. The BMW Group says it has no plans to set up an additional sales organisation in China and that “the company is firmly committed to continuing the successful cooperation with the established sales structure”.
Independently, the Group will “further expand its highly successful BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA) joint venture in China with its partner, Brilliance”.
As well as its two-car production locations, BBA already runs an engine plant, which includes a battery factory for electrified BMW brand vehicles produced locally in Shenyang.
In recent years, BBA has become a cornerstone of the BMW brand’s success in its largest market. Around 560,000 BMW brand vehicles were delivered to customers in China in 2017 – more than in the next two largest markets – the US and Germany combined. In 2017, China was MINI’s fourth-largest market, with around 35,000 units delivered.
The BMW Group’s strategy for the expansion of its global production network obeys a clear rule: production follows the market. However, the expansion of the brand in its largest markets, such as China, has not led to a decrease in production at the company’s German plants.
On the contrary, between 2007 and 2017, production in Germany increased by close to a quarter, to around 1.15 million vehicles per year. At the same time, almost half of all BMW production now takes place at plants outside Germany.