Sony takes on ride-hailing in Japan as Uber looks for partners

by Susie Olson February 20, 2018, 20:09
Sony takes on ride-hailing in Japan as Uber looks for partners

Currently, non-professional drivers are barred from offering taxi services on safety grounds, and ride-hailing companies are limited to services that "match" users to existing taxi fleets via mobile platforms. "It's clear to me that we need to come in with partnership in mind, and in particular a partnership with the taxi industry here".

These efforts center on taxis because of Japan's in-principle ban on the use of privately owned vehicles in ride-hailing services. It's also said to be considering a sale of its Southeast Asian business.

Sony, however, plans to push things even further as its service would be powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo said Monday it plans to link up with Uber to provide its app users rides in major Japanese cities with global airports, including Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka, as well as Okinawa.

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Five taxi operators will form a joint venture with Sony to build the platform.

Taxi companies hope apps could be a way to win back customers.

Carmaker Toyota also announced an investment of ¥7.5 billion ($70 million) in the JapanTaxi app this month, which says it is the biggest taxi-hailing app in Japan. 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. In a report from Nikkei (paywall; via Engadget), it seems that Sony could be looking to launch an AI taxi hailing system in Japan while teaming up with a bunch of different taxi companies. That's a turnaround from previous boss Travis Kalanick who largely left the country in the hands of a country manager.

Japanese companies have been aiming to roll out ride-hailing services amid a global battle to control the technology increasingly central to urban transport, the latest being a venture between China's Didi Chuxing and SoftBank Group Corp. "If you're going to do business with SoftBank, you have to get used to the way that they do business with your competition", he said.

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