Sony chases SoftBank and Toyota in taxi-hailing fray

Ivan Schwartz
February 20, 2018

The ride-sharing company is trying to cultivate business relationships with several taxi companies in Japan in order to carve a stake in the $16 billion taxi market, according to Bloomberg.

Hailing a taxi rarely takes more than a few seconds in major Japanese cities and there has been a relatively sluggish uptake of services like Uber, where consumers order an unlicensed auto via a smartphone app.

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"I saw Japan as an incredible opportunity, and when I asked the team why wasn't our Japan business larger, I started learning the history of our approach to Japan, and it was an approach that frankly didn't work", Khosrowshahi said.

Sony said it was planning a joint venture to offer artificial intelligence technology to six taxi operators, which now own a total of 10,000 vehicles in Tokyo.

Uber's CEO said Japan's taxi utilization rate is 30 percent, while Uber's is more than 50 percent. Both Uber and Didi are backed by SoftBank. 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. Each have effectively framed an organization with taxicab organization Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo.

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Khosrowshahi was speaking at an investor forum in Tokyo on his first visit to Asia as Uber CEO.

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.

Sony adds the intention is for the AI system to be ready in the Spring of 2018, to provide an online based ride-hailing service with the firms mentioned, across Tokyo.

Customers will be able to summon the flying taxis through smartphone apps.

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.

Other reports by GizPress

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