Sony is planning to launch a smart ride-hailing service in its home country, Japan, leveraging artificial intelligence to handle demand and ensure proper operations.
The company announced on Tuesday, Feb. 20, that it will launch an AI-powered ride-hailing system in partnership with six Japanese taxi companies.
Sony AI-Powered Ride-Hailing Service
With the help of AI, Sony's service will intelligently handle taxi dispatches and anticipate demand and operations based on various aspects such as local events, traffic or weather.
By taking all of those factors into account, the algorithmic system should be able to dispatch taxis more effectively. For instance, if a popular concert is about to end soon, the service could send a fleet of cars so that concertgoers can find rides easily.
Sony did not announce a specific date for when it plans to launch the service, or whether it will eventually expand its availability outside of Japan.
Sony Challenging Uber In Japan
Uber's new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, is currently in Asia and announced that Uber also plans to team up with taxi companies in Japan. Khosrowshahi took over as CEO last August, replacing former CEO Travis Kalanick amid a series of scandal and turmoil.
Uber's announcement came shortly after Sony's announcement, and the two companies are expected to go head to head in this sector of the Japanese market.
Khosrowshahi says that Japan looks like an "incredible opportunity," but Uber's approach has failed to yield the desired results. The new approach might hold more promise, but Sony will likely pose some serious competition.
Sony Ride-Hailing Partners In Japan
For its ride-hailing system, Sony teamed up with Daiwa Motor, Kusumi Transportation Corporation, International Motor, Hinomaru Transportation Corporation, Checker Cab Group, and Green Cab. Sony's services and apps, however, will also be available to other Japanese taxi operators, so the business could be even larger. The AI-powered ride-hailing system should launch sometime this spring.
In addition to Uber, Sony's upcoming service will also go up against another AI-powered ride-hailing system that Toyota made in collaboration with JapanTaxi. This market is heating up and it holds great opportunity, so it makes sense that more companies want to join the party.
Japan doesn't allow the use of private vehicles for ride-hailing services, so the ridesharing model doesn't quite work as it is, forcing companies to find taxi partners to do business. The Japanese taxi app market is fiercely competitive already, but the newly-announced services will take things to the next level.