SoftBank, Didi to roll out taxi-hailing business in Japan
Long dominated by taxis, Japan’s US$15 billion car-transport industry is starting to show signs of change
SoftBank Group Corp. and China’s Didi Chuxing unveiled a taxi-hailing platform for Japan, becoming the latest venture to bet on a market that has lagged behind the rest of the world.
Called Didi Mobility Japan, the business will start trials later this year in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka and Okinawa, the companies announced on Thursday. Taxi operators will be able to track hires and drivers using heat maps, while passengers will be able to summon rides and rate drivers via an app, which will also offer Chinese-Japanese translation.
Long dominated by taxis, Japan’s 1.7 trillion yen (US$15 billion) car-transport industry is starting to show signs of change. Sony Corp. is working on a joint venture with taxi companies called “Everybody’s Taxi.” Japan Taxi, the dispatch app run by the chairman of Nihon Kotsu Co., has also been actively promoting its services. Uber Technologies Inc. is starting a taxi-hailing pilot program in the remote island of Awaji.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will bring even more tourists to the archipelago, and taxi companies are looking for ways to make it easier for customers to hail cabs and get to their destinations.
“Technology can be not just disruptive but also collaborative and inclusive,” Didi President Jean Liu said at the briefing.
Ride-hailing, where anyone can use their own car to pick up and deliver passengers, is illegal in Japan. As a result, Uber and others have followed local rules. Any ride-hailing services are essentially taxi and car dispatch services. Earlier on Thursday, SoftBank Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son deplored Japan’s regulations, saying that they stifled innovation.
“In Japan, ride-hailing is prohibited by law. It’s incredible that our national government is denying the future that is inevitable,” Son said at SoftBank World, the company’s annual two-day event for customers and suppliers. “Is there a country that is as stupid as that?”