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Nissan begins public robo-taxi trials next year

In 2018, Nissan launches public trials of its new Easy Ride self-driving car taxi service.

Nissan Leaf Easy Ride
Nissan created the Easy Ride brand to begin public trials of its robo-taxi in Japan.

Four years ago, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn set an aggressive goal by saying the company would produce self-driving cars by 2020. In retrospect, Ghosn might have been underselling Nissan's technological chops, as it just announced public trials of robo-taxis to commence next year.

The self-driving taxi service is called Easy Ride, and the trials will be conducted in Yokohama, Japan.

Nissan is partnering with a company called DeNA, which operates online services for healthcare, gaming and automotive. The Nissan Leaf electric car, modified with self-driving technology, will deliver passengers in the testing area.

Self-driving car technology has been a hot topic for automakers and technology companies, as it promises to save lives by preventing accidents, and offer up a whole new service industry.

With the Easy Ride service, passengers will be able to summon a car using an app. Nissan says the app will not only let passengers set their destination, but it will also recommend restaurants and other businesses, and allow them to take a scenic route.

Nissan isn't alone in public trials for self-driving cars. Google's Waymo began public trials in Arizona this year, and GM's Cruise Automation is planning on public trials using the name Cruise Anywhere.

Participants in the Nissan test will have to sign up on the Easy Ride website, which runs from March 5-18 next year.