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Sony jumps into Japan taxi market

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TOKYO: Electronics giant Sony announced a plan on Tuesday to provide an AI-based ride-hailing system to Japanese cab companies, while another taxi firm said they were in talks with Uber on a tie-up.


Sony said it was planning a joint venture to offer artificial intelligence technology to six taxi operators, which currently own a total of 10,000 vehicles in Tokyo.


The technology would use AI to predict demand for taxis and allow companies to more efficiently mobilise their resources.


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.


Also, Daiichi Kotsu Sangyo, a taxi company based in southern Fukuoka prefecture, announced they are in talks to join hands with US ride-sharing titan Uber.


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.


Hailing a taxi rarely takes more than a few seconds in major Japanese cities and there has been a relatively sluggish uptake of services like Uber, where consumers order an unlicensed car via a smartphone app.


The vast majority of taxis are hailed or hired from a cab rank, and a relatively small percentage of taxis are connected to a smartphone, posing another barrier to the success of apps like Uber. But the number of taxi passengers has been on the decline, dropping by a third between 2005 and 2015, authorities said. — AFP


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