Cruise, the autonomous taxi maker owned by GM and Honda, is planning to branch out from the US, and is aiming to have its Origin self-driving taxis working in Tokyo from 2026.

    The first step will see Cruise set up an operating arm in Japan next year after gaining all the necessary regulatory approvals.

    If all goes well, the general public will be able to take their first driverless taxi rides in Tokyo some time in 2026. The operating area will initially be limited to “central Tokyo”. Given Tokyo is a rather large place, it’s unfortunate the companies didn’t provide a more detailed description of this area.

    Unlike the company’s existing service areas, Tokyo will be served by a fleet of Cruise Origin vehicles, which are designed from the ground up as self-driving taxis. As such there’s no steering wheel, and they can accommodate up to six people with two rows of face-to-face seating.

    During the service’s start up phase, usefulness will be also limited by a fleet consisting of just “dozens” of Cruise Origin vehicles. The automakers say they have plans to increase the fleet to 500 cars, and expand service to “areas outside of central Tokyo”, but haven’t provided a timeline.

    With its ubiquitous vending machines and restaurants with self-service interfaces, Tokyo already has a long history of using technology to reduce human interaction.

    Currently Cruise runs robotaxi services in San Francisco, Phoenix, Houston, and the inner suburbs of Austin, excluding the city centre. Interestingly service hours in all three US cities are 9pm to 5am or 6am, which neatly avoids morning and afternoon peak hours.

    Access to the Cruise app in those cities is also limited to invitees, and cars can only take a maximum of three passengers at a time with kids under 12 and pets not allowed. All four cities are served with heavily modified Chevrolet Bolt electric hatchbacks.

    It’s unclear if the Tokyo service will have any time, accessibility, or passenger restrictions imposed.

    Derek Fung

    Derek Fung would love to tell you about his multiple degrees, but he's too busy writing up some news right now. In his spare time Derek loves chasing automotive rabbits down the hole. Based in New York, New York, Derek loves to travel and is very much a window not an aisle person.

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