Sony forms alliance to bring AI ride hailing service to Japan


Such moves are in marked contrast to the Travis Kalanick "foot to the metal" Uber era approach to regulatory roadblocks - which the company used to expand rapidly across the globe in its early years, exploiting the disconnect between new technologies and policymakers' understand of them.

Apps have become central to efforts by the taxi industry to improve service, with a number of major providers in Tokyo starting to experiment with such services. The Sony Payment Service involvement will be to provide payment services for the new system.

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.

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. Others rivals are Uber and Didi Chuxing, which are both put resources into by Softbank.

Uber still faces an uphill battle in Japan.

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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.

The San Francisco-based company, which has failed to gain much ground since launching in 2013 amid stringent regulations, is in talks for a venture with taxi operator Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo Co.

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. As a result, Uber is focused on creating its own dispatch system for taxi operators.

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. Uber's Chinese rival Didi Chuxing past year began partnership talks with taxi operator Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo Co., with the discussions facilitated by Uber shareholder SoftBank Group Corp., a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg in October.