Cruise is set to become one of the first companies in the self-driving technology space to offer a robotaxi service on more than one continent.

The California company this week announced plans to start a robotaxi service in Japan in early 2026, using the Cruise Origin shuttle first shown as a concept in 2020.

The service will initially be run in central Tokyo and subsequently expanded to other areas. Testing of prototypes in Japan is due to start next year, pending regulatory approval, Cruise said.

Cruise’s robotaxi service was launched in early 2022 in San Francisco, where the company is headquartered, and quickly expanded to Austin and Phoenix later that year. It’s due to expand to Houston and Dallas later this year.

The current service still relies on Chevrolet Bolt EVs. The service is also limited when it comes to the hours permitted to operate, and to routes that minimize risky maneuvers, like pulling out into traffic.

For the service in Japan, Cruise, together with key investors General Motors and Honda, plan to form a local joint venture. Cruise said it initially plans to supply the joint venture with 500 Origin shuttles. The shuttles, which are based on GM’s Ultium EV technology and designed to carry up to six passengers, will be built by GM at its Factory Zero plant near Detroit.

Cruise said Japan’s cities are ideally suited to robotaxi services, as they are dense and highly populated. The company also said Japan faces a driver shortage, and thus the country has an “important and growing societal” need for a robotaxi service.

Related Articles