Cruise, General Motors (GM), and Honda Motor have jointly declared their intent to launch a driverless ridehail service in Japan, set to commence operations in early 2026, as per a memorandum of understanding.

Pending regulatory approvals, the companies are targeting the first half of 2024 for the establishment of their new joint venture.

This innovative service will rely on the Cruise Origin, a unique self-driving vehicle developed collaboratively by GM, Cruise, and Honda. The Cruise Origin is purpose-built for driverless ridehailing and promises to transport passengers seamlessly from their designated pickup location to their destination, all while under autonomous control. Users will manage the entire process, from requesting a ride to payment, through a dedicated smartphone app.

GM chair and CEO Mary Barra said: “GM has always been invested in defining the future of transportation and that’s more true today than ever.

“The benefits of AVs – from safety to accessibility – are too profound to ignore and through this important partnership with Cruise and Honda, we’re bringing forward innovation that leverages our expertise in cutting-edge software and hardware to help more people around the world get where they need to go.”

The Cruise Origin is an unconventional vehicle, lacking a driver’s seat and steering wheel. It offers a spacious cabin accommodating up to six passengers who can engage in face-to-face interactions, providing a level of privacy akin to a personal vehicle. This driverless ridehail service aims to introduce a novel mobility experience to Japan, catering to a diverse customer base that includes business travelers, families, tourists, and more.

The ambitious launch of the driverless ridehail service is scheduled for early 2026 in central Tokyo, initially deploying a fleet of several Cruise Origins. The plan is to expand rapidly, with the goal of operating a fleet of 500 Cruise Origins, and extend service to areas beyond central Tokyo.

Beyond providing a new dimension of mobility, this collaboration seeks to address societal challenges in Japan, including shortages of taxi and bus drivers. Honda, in conjunction with the new joint venture, is committed to fostering cooperation with various stakeholders, including local governments and transportation service providers.

Furthermore, the Cruise Origin will make its debut in Japan, showcased at the Honda booth during the JAPAN MOBILITY SHOW 2023, held at Tokyo Big Site.

Honda global CEO Toshihiro Mibe said: “Through our driverless ridehail service, we will enable customers in Japan to experience a new value of mobility, improve the quality of their mobility experiences and offer the joy of mobility. This will be a major step toward the realization of an advanced mobility society.

“Providing this service in central Tokyo where the traffic environment is complex will be a great challenge, however, by working jointly with Cruise and GM, Honda will exert further efforts to make it a reality.”