Sony steps into Japanese ride-hailing arena

Ann Santiago
February 20, 2018

During his first stop in Japan, he said he's willing to forge partnerships with taxi companies in order to succeed, even though Uber has less than a 1-percent market share and only offers limited services there.

"It is clear to me that we need to come in with partnership in mind and in particular partnership with the taxi industry", he said without providing specifics.

The intelligent ride hailing service is due to launch in the spring, the report adds, but it is not clear if Japan is being used as a test market before launching a similar service in the USA or elsewhere in the world. It's also said to be considering a sale of its Southeast Asian business. SoftBank is an investor in Uber.

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.

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.

Taxi companies may eventually end up congregating on the dispatching platform that garners the most users. Uber confirmed that it plans to bring the business model to Japan hours after Sony's announcement. Toyota Motor Corp. has teamed up with Nihon Kotsu Co. 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. Also on Tuesday, Daiichi Kotsu Sangyo, a taxi company based in southern Fukuoka prefecture, announced they are in talks to join hands with U.S. ride-sharing titan Uber.

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. Last November the ride-sharing company announced a partnership with NASA in their efforts to take their app to the skies. "If you're going to do business with SoftBank, you have to get used to that they do business with your competition", he said.

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