Sony to Enter the Ride-Hailing Business in Japan

Uber predicts flying taxis within five to 10 years

Flying taxis may sound like something from 90's sci-fi hit The Fifth Element, but that'll be the reality in 5-10 years if Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has his way. Khosrowshahi noted that Japan's traditional taxi firms have failed to keep up with the technological advances.

Khosrowshahi was speaking at an investor forum in Tokyo on his first visit to Asia as Uber CEO.

Sony, however, plans to push things even further as its service would be powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Sony's partnership is the latest in a growing array of tie-ups between taxi firms and tech companies, who see Japan as a potentially lucrative market but are prevented from offering ride-sharing services by stringent rules.

It is unclear as to why Sony suddenly wants to get into the taxi/transportation business, but it could be an interesting approach. Didi plans to stick to taxi-hailing in Japan for now as well.

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SoftBank is heavily present in the taxi market and recently took a 15-per cent stake in Uber. Local rivals, such as Nihon Kotsu Co., Tokyo's largest cab company, have already released popular taxi-hailing apps. Uber says its business now serves more than 15 trillion trips per day, globally. Sony's administrations, including applications, will likewise be offered to other taxi administrators in Japan. "It's clear to me that we need to come in with partnership in mind, and in particular a partnership with the taxi industry here, which actually has a very, very strong product", Khosrowshahi said, according to Bloomberg.

After years of little action, Japan's lackluster ride-hailing industry is suddenly seeing a lot of activity.

The company announced the move on its country blog yesterday, writing that it has "not had any clarity" on how its service can be integrated into the existing transport model since it launched in the market three years ago.

The major obstacle is the tough regulation in Japan for companies like Uber.

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

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