Honda, General Motors, and Cruise have announced a memorandum of understanding through which they will establish a new joint venture to launch a driverless robotaxi service in Tokyo, Japan. The companies are aiming to establish the new company in the first half of 2024, pending regulatory approval, before launching the Tokyo service in early 2026.
The service will see Origin, Cruise’s proprietary AV designed for robotaxi use, pick up customers at a specified location and drive them to their destination. Much like Cruise’s existing service in the U.S., the Tokyo service will operate through a dedicated smartphone app which customers will use throughout the process – from hailing the robotaxi to paying for rides. The Origin AV itself was jointly developed by GM, Cruise, and Honda, and enabled by a multi-year partnership between GM and Honda – who in 2018 committed to investing $2 billion (€1.8 billion) into Cruise over a 12-year period. Inside, the AV does not have a driver seat or steering wheel – offering enhanced cabin space for up to six passengers, with three seats at both ends of the vehicle that allow these passengers to sit face to face.
For Cruise, the announcement marks a key step as its Origin AV enters a new international market. The expansion follows the GM subsidiary’s growth in the U.S., where its robotaxi service began limited operations in San Francisco before receiving the necessary permit to operate more regularly in the city. This service then expanded further across the country, with operations in select areas of Austin, Houston, and Phoenix alongside testing in Dallas, Nashville, and Los Angeles.
Targeting Tokyo, the robotaxi service spawned from the JV will aim to offer a new mobility experience for a broad range of customers in Japan – including businesspeople, families, and visitors. At launch, the companies will leverage a small fleet of Cruise Origin AVs to carry out operations, before increasing the size of this fleet to 500 units. Following this increase, GM, Cruise and Honda will then look to scale the service – extending its reach to areas outside of central Tokyo. Through it, the companies are ultimately aiming to address mobility issues currently facing Japan – such as the country’s shortage of bus and taxi drivers. In supporting the service and helping it to scale, GM, Cruise and Honda will continue to strengthen its partnerships with various stakeholders, including municipal governments and transportation service providers local to the Japan region.
The announcement of the JV and its robotaxi service was made at a special press event held by Honda ahead of the Japan Mobility Show in Tokyo, where the Cruise Origin will be displayed at the OEM’s booth. The announcement also represents the latest step in a longer collaboration between GM and Honda that began in 2013 through the joint development of hydrogen fuel cell systems. This continued in 2020 as the Cruise Origin was revealed, before the companies more recently announced plans to co-develop cost-effective EVs for the North America market.