Japan's Sony Corp to form alliance to build taxi-hailing system: Nikkei

Its AI-powered ride-hailing service, offered in Japan in partnership with six local taxi firms, will be able to anticipate demand for rides based on a combination of factors including the weather, traffic, and even local events.

Further expansion in Japan comes as Uber has retreated from some key worldwide markets and is considering whether to sell its Southeast Asia unit to Singapore-based rival Grab.

Speaking at an investor forum in Tokyo, Japan, during his first trip to Asia, the relatively new Uber leader addressed a country where he hopes his company can commercially thrive. Khosrowshahi noted that Japan's traditional taxi firms have failed to keep up with the technological advances. Although Uber has clashed with taxi rivals and regulators around the world, it has played by the rules in the archipelago, relegating its business to auto hires and a ride-sharing program for the elderly in a small rural town. The company's main success in Japan has been food-delivery service UberEATS, which Khosrowshahi said made him realize the country's potential.

It looks like Sony is venturing into a new business. Both Uber and Didi are backed by SoftBank.


Uber still faces an uphill battle in Japan. Toyota Motor Corp. has teamed up with Nihon Kotsu Co. Uber is also said to be in talks for a venture with Daiichi Koutsu.

Earlier in the year, Patrick Moulay, executive vice president for commercial helicopter sales, Bell Helicopter, said in an interview with Bloomberg, "Air taxi is the next way for our industry, and it's very important for us to make sure we are among the disrupters to think about what should be transportation in the next 10-20 years". Which sort of limits the reach of ride-sharing companies like Uber.

After years of little action, Japan's lackluster ride-hailing industry is suddenly seeing a lot of activity.

"They have invested in many other ride-hailing and ride-sharing companies around the world, which has allowed them to be incredibly smart about what it takes to succeed", he said. The company says it will resume operations in Morocco, where it has garnered 300 drivers and 19,000 regular riders since its launch, "as soon as new rules are in place". China's Didi Chuxing Technology Co., another ride-hailing firm backed by SoftBank, is also said to be working on its own dispatch system in partnership with Japanese taxi operators.


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