Sony is the latest company to dive into Japan’s taxi-booking market, announcing plans to share its artificial intelligence (AI) platform with six taxi operators in the country.
The company said in a statement it will establish a new company in “the spring of 2018 that develops and operates dispatch service applications” using its AI technology. It will also provide mobile payment services.
Japan-based Sony will form a joint venture with six domestic taxi companies – Checker Cab Group, Daiwa Motor Transportation, Green Cab, Hinomaru Kotsu, Kokusai Motorcars and Kotobuki Taxi – with a combined fleet of more than 10,000 taxis in the Tokyo area.
The country’s highly regulated taxi industry faced little direct competition from taxi-booking companies such as Uber, which launched in Tokyo in 2013 but gained little traction.
Uber is in discussions with taxi operator Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo about setting up a venture, with Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi admitting its go-it-alone approach in the country wasn’t working, Bloomberg reported.
In early February SoftBank and Didi Chuxing, the most popular taxi-booking platform in China, announced plans to set up a joint venture to provide taxi services in Japan, with trials due to start this year in at least four cities.
Toyota also announced in early February it will invest JPY7.5 billion ($69.6 million) in JapanTaxi, a booking platform and a subsidiary of Nihon Kotsu, one of the country’s largest taxi operators.
In a related development, CNBC reported last week Uber is looking to sell its Southeast Asia business to Singapore-based Grab in return for a substantial stake in the company. In January a consortium led by Japan-based SoftBank acquired a 17.5 per cent stake in Uber in a deal which valued the taxi-booking company at about a 30 per cent discount to a previous valuation of $68 billion.