Published: Tue, February 20, 2018
Money | By Armando Alvarado

Sony takes on ride-hailing in Japan as Uber looks for partners

Sony takes on ride-hailing in Japan as Uber looks for partners

Sony's ride-hailing service will be based on its artificial intelligence (AI) technology, the company said in a press release.

Building a taxi-centric platform only makes sense for Sony because of Japanese legislation that bans any ride-sharing services that uses private cars.

The companies will form a joint venture this spring to develop a taxi-hailing app, though Sony said further discussions would be held before any legally-binding agreement is inked.

Nikkei said that the stakes are high because Japan's taxi companies may eventually all congregate on a single platform that bags the most users.

The company, Uber Technologies Inc. has already terminated its service in Finland and Norway for the local regulatory framework to be changed in the countries.

Uber has had to suspend its service using non-professional drivers in several European cities like Paris and Brussels, but it still operates a licensed service there.

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Sony's push comes at the same time that Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who is now in Tokyo, is attempting to make new inroads into the Japanese market.

While Uber has clashed with taxi rivals and regulators around the world, it has played by the rules in the archipelago, relegating its business to vehicle hires and a ride-sharing program for the elderly in a small rural town.

Earlier this month, SoftBank Group Corp. announced a partnership with China's Didi Chuxing and plans to begin trial services this year.

Last year the company announced a similar pause on its service in Finland, but in that case it's awaiting a specific law to be passed deregulating its taxi industry this year.

Taxi-hailing apps have found it challenging to crack the Japanese market, where risk-averse passengers prefer to stick to their high-quality traditional taxi service.

Other rivals in the market include Toyota, which is partnering with mobile application developer JapanTaxi and taxi firm Nihon Kotsu on its own AI-based dispatch system.

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