Uber to introduce service across Japan by around 2020: CEO

Sony plans to build an AI-based hailing platform with Daiwa Motor Transportation and five other domestic taxi firms. Kim Kyung-Hoon  Reuters

Uber now provides its ride-hailing services to limousines in Tokyo but has started to form an alliance with several taxi companies including Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo Co. headquartered in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture.

In response to Uber's plans to expand to Japan, Sony announced a partnership with multiple taxi companies to help it enter the ride-hailing business. Both Uber and Didi are backed by SoftBank. Although 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. Toyota Motor Corp has said it will take a stake in taxi-hailing service JapanTaxi, set up by Japan's largest taxi firm, Nihon Kotsu. Each have effectively framed an organization with taxicab organization Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo.

At an investor conference in Tokyo the same day, Khosrowshahi said he expects that its flying taxi, which it is developing with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, could come into use in five years, earlier than initial plans. Sony says it's working on creating a platform that will allow other taxi operators to participate as well.

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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. 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.

Tough rules legislate ride-hailing apps in Japan. That's a turnaround from previous boss Travis Kalanick who largely left the country in the hands of a country manager.

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. Daiichi Koutsu has already announced plans to team with Didi Chuxing, China's largest ride-hailing company. "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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