Japan’s Sony to form alliance to build taxi-hailing system

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Sony Corp said on Tuesday it would become the latest blue-chip firm to jockey for position in Japan’s taxi and ride-hailing market, with plans for a joint venture to develop an artificial intelligence-based hailing system.

Japan is seen as a potentially lucrative ride-hailing market, with regulators under pressure to ease stringent rules.

Currently, non-professional drivers are barred from offering taxi services on safety grounds, and ride-hailing companies are limited to services that “match” users to existing taxi fleets via mobile platforms.

Sony plans to build the AI-based hailing platform with Daiwa Motor Transportation and five other domestic taxi firms.

This month, SoftBank Group Corp and China’s Didi Chuxing said they would roll out a venture in Japan this year to provide matching services.

Toyota Motor Corp has said it will take a stake in taxi-hailing service JapanTaxi, set up by Japan’s largest taxi firm, Nihon Kotsu.

Uber’s new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, is in Tokyo meeting regulators on his first visit to the region in post.

Reporting by Minami Funakoshi and Sam Nussey in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Stephen Coates