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Sony to launch ride-hailing service in Japan

ABR Staff Writer Published 21 February 2018

Japanese multinational conglomerate Sony in partnership with six taxi firms and Sony Payment Service is set to launch an AI-based ride-hailing system in Japan.

The taxi firms include: Daiwa Motor Transportation, Green Cab, International Automobile, Kusumi Transportation, Checker Cab Radio Cooperative Association and Hinomaru Transportation.

The companies have signed a letter of intent confirming the dispatch service business. They aim to establish a new entity, later this year, which will develop and operate dispatch service applications.

The new company will use Sony’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology to power this service.

The six taxi companies presently own more than 10,000 taxi vehicles, which is the largest in Tokyo and offers travel services mainly in the city.

The Japanese conglomerate plans to offer AI technology to predict taxi demand based on several aspects, including local events traffic and weather and make sure that the ample number of taxis will be available for the users.

Sony said that the new firm will prepare multiple choices for each business, from one service to one-stop solution of packages, aiming to create a platform that allows more businesses to participate.

Apart from rivalling Uber, the new ride-hailing service is also expected to compete with Toyota’s service developed in collaboration with JapanTaxi. Toyota invested around JPY7.5bn ($70m) in JapanTaxi.

JapanTaxi claims that it has the biggest market share in the country with 60,000 taxis or about one-fourth of taxis in the country registered under its service.

Earlier this month, SoftBank and Did Chuxing announced their plans to enter the Japanese market. SoftBank has also invested in Uber.

Uber has also announced its plans to enter the Japanese market.

Bloomberg quoted Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi as saying: "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, which actually has a very, very strong product. But that product hasn't kept up with technological change."

Image: Sony headquarters at Minato, Japan. Photo: Courtesy of Shuichi Aizawa/Wikipedia.org.