Sony has gotten into the taxi-hailing business, launching an app in Tokoyo last week.
First spotted by CNET and covered by reporters Monday (April 22), the service is dubbed S.Ride, with S standing for simple, smart and speedy. The app was launched by Minna No Taxi, a joint venture created by Sony, Sony Payment Services and several taxi companies located in Japan. Minna No means Everyboody’s Taxi, reported CNET.
Sony isn’t taking on Japanese taxi drivers with the new service — rather, it’s an app to hail a ride with a taxi, not from an individual. In Japan ride-hailing services are banned, reported CNET, noting Uber is looking to partner with a taxi company in Japan to enter the market. According to reports, S.Ride covers 10,000 licensed taxis in Tokyo. JapanTaxi is its biggest competitor with more than 50,000 taxis in operations across Japan. Other rivals include Line, the chat app that has offered taxi-hailing for years now, and Uber. Reports noted Lyft has expressed an interest in entering the Japanese market but has not made any moves as of yet.
The service shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise since Sony talked about it last February, saying at the time that it will rely on artificial intelligence to determine demand during the day and to provide supply according to that demand. A Sony spokesperson told CNET that there are no plans to roll out the service outside of Japan.
At the same time that tech companies and startups are inking partnerships with taxi companies in Japan, Uber, Nissan, and DeNA are reportedly planning a test-run of a self-driving taxi service — dubbed Easy Ride —in the country. In February of 2018, Nissan said it would conduct the test on a 4.5 kilometer road in the Minatomirai district of Yokohama. Nissan and DeNA are aiming to make Easy Ride available to the general public sometime in the early 2020s. But before the companies launch the service more widely, they’re seeking to provide support for more languages and routes.