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General Motors Robo-Taxis to Roll-Out in Japan From 2026 – With Help From Honda

US car giant General Motors and Japanese auto-maker Honda have signed an agreement for the former’s driverless ‘robo-taxis’ to roll-out in Japan from 2026 – amid numerous setbacks and safety concerns over the technology in the US.

Last week, Honda and General Motors announced they had signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a joint venture for GM’s robo-taxis – operated by its autonomous-car subsidiary Cruise – from the first half of 2024.

If the joint venture goes according to plan, more than 500 Cruise Origin robo-taxis – a futuristic six-seater shuttle which will be developed by General Motors and Honda – will become available in central Tokyo from early 2026, before expanding throughout Japan.

However, Cruise has a number of hurdles to clear before it can begin an expansion outside of the US.

As previously reported, Cruise’s autonomous robo-taxis – which are based on the Chevrolet Bolt electric hatchback – have been involved in numerous incidents in San Francisco, which has allowed driverless ride-share companies more freedom to test their vehicles on public roads in the city.

Both Cruise and its rival Waymo were given permission to operate their autonomous vehicles for 24 hours per day, seven days a week in San Francisco and part of the nearby San Mateo County earlier this year.

This sparked animosity from San Francisco residents, who have vandalised the autonomous cars by smashing their windscreens or placing cones over their radars to temporarily disable the self-driving systems.

Following two incidents on San Francisco roads in August, Cruise was ordered by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles to reduce its operations in the state, resulting in no more than 50 autonomous vehicles being on the roads during the day and a maximum of 150 at night until its investigations are completed.

Earlier this month, the peak body for road safety regulation in the US launched a probe into Cruise amid concerns about how its driverless cars interact with pedestrians.

At least two Cruise robo-taxis have been reported for incidents involving injured pedestrians, the most recent of which occurred earlier this month when a woman who was struck by a human-driven car in a hit-and-run incident subsequently became trapped under a Cruise robo-taxi.

The investigating authority – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – has said the reports suggest Cruise’s robo-taxis are “encroaching on pedestrians present in or entering roadways, including pedestrian crosswalks, in the proximity of the intended travel path of the vehicles”. 

Cruise was probed by the NHTSA in December 2022 following two injuries sustained in rear-end crashes – both of which were attributed to the driverless cars “inappropriately” braking hard or becoming immobilised.

Source : Drive