Sony chases SoftBank and Toyota in taxi-hailing fray

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Uber Technologies Inc. aims to introduce its ride-hailing services across Japan in around 2020 by joining hands with local taxi firms, its chief executive officer said Tuesday. Uber's new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, is now in Tokyo and is expected to meet with regulators.

Now in Japan, non-professional drivers are banned from offering taxi services due to safety concerns. 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 services developed will be offered to all platforms available to taxi operators that wish to participate across Japan.

"I saw Japan as an incredible opportunity, and when I asked the team why wasn't our Japan business larger, I started learning the history of our approach to Japan, and it was an approach that frankly didn't work", Khosrowshahi said in Tokyo on Tuesday.

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Speaking at an investor forum in Tokyo, Japan, during his first trip to Asia, the relatively new Uber leader addressed a country where he hopes his company can commercially thrive. Khosrowshahi additionally said Uber will concentrate this year on extending its quality in Japan.

Carmaker Toyota also announced an investment of ¥7.5 billion ($70 million) in the JapanTaxi app this month, which says it is the biggest taxi-hailing app in Japan.

Khosrowshahi, who took over at Uber past year, said in October that "regulating services like Uber is totally appropriate".

Sony's ride-hailing service will be based on its artificial intelligence (AI) technology, the company said in a press release. But Uber saw four listless years in Japan, achieving less than 1 percent of monthly rides in Tokyo, the world's largest single cab market. "We're very early in our relationship, but we're already having very good dialogue, both about the Japanese market and the ecosystem that SoftBank has created". "If you're going to do business with SoftBank, you have to get used to the way that they do business with your competition", he said.



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