Using an app to order up a car ride is not common in Japan, even though ride-hailing has spread across the globe. That's partly because it's not difficult, unless it's in the suburbs or there's pouring rain in the rush hour.
SoftBank Group Corp and China's Didi Chuxing are the latest companies seeking to change that. They're teaming up to introduce Didi Mobility Japan, a taxi-hailing platform that will start this year in Osaka, followed by Tokyo, Kyoto, Fukuoka and Okinawa.
Long dominated by taxis, Japan's 1.7tril yen (RM61.15bil) car-transport industry is starting to show signs of change. Sony Corp is working on a joint venture with cab 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 car-hailing pilot program in the remote island of Awaji. With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, just about the corner, taxi operators are looking for ways to make it easier for customers to hail rides and get to their destinations.
“Technology can not be disruptive but also collaborative and inclusive,” Didi president Jean Liu said at the briefing. Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo Co last year.
The main reason why it is not so widespread in Japan is because it's illegal for private owners to use their own vehicle to pick up and deliver passengers. As a result, Uber and others have followed local rules and regulations. Any ride-hailing services in Japan are essentially taxi and car-dispatch services. Earlier on July 19, SoftBank chief executive officer Masayoshi Son, who has invested in Uber, Didi and other ride-hailing companies around the world, complained about local regulations, saying that they are 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?”
Son is one of the most influential investors in a ride-hailing. He has poured in as much as US $ 9.5bil (RM38.61bil) into Didi and led a US $ 9.3bil (RM37.80bil) investment in Uber, and through SoftBank and his Vision Fund, also owns stakes in South-East Asia's Grab, India's Ola and 99 in Brazil. Despite those investments Son had to make a move in his home turf, until now.
Foreign tourists are a key reason why SoftBank and Didi decided to introduce a ride-hailing service in Japan. The archipelago has been viewed 16 million visitors so far this year, with Chinese tourists making up the largest group. The companies are betting that many of them will want to use their Didi app, which has about 550 million registered users, to summon rides.
“Ken Miyao, auto consultant at Carnorama in Tokyo.” Japan is a major destination for outbound Chinese tourists and the demand makes sense for them to develop business. ”
SoftBank and Didi, which first announced their partnership in February, said their app will offer Chinese-Japanese translation. Taxi operators will be able to track drivers and fares using heat maps, while passengers will be able to summon rides and rate drivers via an app. The app will also make it easier to pay for rides using Alipay and WeChat Pay, in addition to credit cards, the companies said in a statement.
Sony has signed up seven of the companies in the capital for its service, which it says will be debut by March. While Uber operates a black-car hire service in Japan, Uber Eats is a food-delivery service. – Bloomberg