Didi Chuxing, the most popular taxi-booking platform in China, and SoftBank announced plans to set up a joint venture to provide taxi services in Japan, with trials starting this year in at least four cities.
The companies said in a statement the partnership will use Didi’s artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to build booking platforms to improve efficiency for both taxi operators and drivers. The pair aim to start trial services in Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Tokyo and other locations this year.
“Both partners believe Didi’s deep learning-based demand prediction and smart dispatch systems, combined with SoftBank’s local resources and expertise, will help Japan’s taxi operators further optimise taxi ride-hailing services and increase passenger convenience.”
Unlike rival Uber, which attempted to expand rapidly across Asia, Didi moved slowly outside of the mainland, offering limited cross-border services from Shenzhen to Hong Kong.
Didi, valued at $50 billion, announced plans in December 2017 to expand its service into neighbouring Taiwan using a franchising model. The company is recruiting drivers through Facebook, with its authorised franchisee in the country Ledi Technology overseeing the process.
The company claims 2 million taxi drivers use its app, with 1.1 billion rides completed in 2017.