Sony steps into Japanese ride-hailing arena


But its new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, has struck a more conciliatory tone after a string of controversies that emerged under the former CEO, Travis Kalanick.

Sony is partnering with five local taxi providers in Tokyo, including Daiwa Motor Transportation, Hinomaru Kotsu, Kokusai Motorcars, Green Cab and the Checker Cab group, Nikkei said. Non-professional drivers are effectively barred from offering taxi services, so apps like Uber have to link riders with existing taxi fleets.

"It is clear to me that we need to come in with partnership in mind and in particular partnership with the taxi industry", he said without providing specifics.

Sony says that the six companies together control over 10,000 taxis across Tokyo and beyond, and by integrating AI, customer service will be improved by "prepar [ing] the necessary number of taxis when necessary".

Shortly after the announcement, Khosrowshahi spoke of Uber's plans to push further into the market by striking its own partnerships. After Japan, Khosrowshahi is scheduled to visit India, where Uber is competing against local ride-hailing start-up Ola.

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USA -based Uber Technologies is in talks to offer dispatch systems to taxi providers including Japan's Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo.

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

It may seem odd for Sony to chase after cabs when ridesharing services like Uber are quickly taking hold, but it doesn't have much choice. 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.

In January, SoftBank became the largest single shareholder in Uber. For the time being, the platform that Sony is developing is focused on the Japanese market only.

Japanese companies have been aiming to roll out ride-hailing services amid a global battle to control the technology increasingly central to urban transport, the latest being a venture between China's Didi Chuxing and SoftBank Group Corp.