Sony Corp. to Launch an AI-based Taxi-Hailing Service in Japan

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi ride-hailing firms Uber Japan services taxi services Ola transportation service Soft Bank Uber investment Asian taxi market

The Tokyo-based tech giant, Daiwa Motor Transportation Corp., and a handful of taxi firms plan to join forces and launch a new company this spring.

Tough rules legislate ride-hailing apps in Japan.

"In Japan we are very focused on partnering with the existing taxi players", Dara Khosrowshahi, who is visiting Japan for the first time, said in an interview with Kyodo News. JapanTaxi says 60,000 cabs, or around one-fourth of cabs in Japan, are enlisted on its administration, which it claims gives it the greatest marketshare among Japanese taxi-dispatch applications. Sony has announced that it teamed up with six taxi companies in Japan to launch an AI-powered ride-hailing service.

Apps have become central to efforts by the taxi industry to improve service, with a number of major providers in Tokyo starting to experiment with such services.


Shortly after the announcement, Khosrowshahi spoke of Uber's plans to push further into the market by striking its own partnerships. App developer JapanTaxi announced a partnership with Toyota on February 8 that will see the automaker invest 7.5 billion yen ($70 million) in the unit of Nihon Kotsu, one of the country's largest taxi operators. Uber's Chinese rival Didi Chuxing previous year began partnership talks with taxi operator Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo Co., with the discussions facilitated by SoftBank, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg last October. Others rivals are Uber and Didi Chuxing, which are both put resources into by Softbank.

Uber's CEO said Japan's taxi utilization rate is 30 percent, while Uber's is more than 50 percent.

And local players Nihon Kotsu and Daiwa Motor Transportation announced plans in January to trial a taxi-sharing service. By combining Uber's brand, technology, along with demand from tourists and partnerships with the taxi industry, he said the result would be a "win-win" for Uber and the taxi industry.

The alliance comes as Uber Technologies Inc., the world's biggest ride-hailing startup, is in talks with another cab company as it tries to build its presence in the country. If Sony doesn't get in early, it risks missing out on what could be a hot market.

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