Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing (滴滴出行) yesterday announced a deal with Japanese telecom Softbank Group Corp to develop a taxi app in Japan, where services such as Uber Technologies Inc have struggled to make inroads.
Softbank and Didi Chuxing announced a “partnership to provide platform services for the taxi industry” with trial runs expected to be launched in major Japanese cities “within the year.”
The two firms are also in discussion about creating a joint venture, a Softbank spokesman said, without offering more details.
Taxi-hailing apps have found it challenging to crack the Japanese market, where risk-averse passengers prefer to stick to their high-quality traditional taxi service.
Hailing a taxi rarely takes more than a few seconds in major Japanese cities and there has been a relatively sluggish uptake of services such as Uber, where consumers order an unlicensed car via their smartphone.
Another barrier has been that the vast majority of taxis are hailed or hired from a rank, with a relatively small percentage of taxis connected to a smartphone.
Didi Chuxing said it would use its “advanced AI technologies... to enhance efficiency for both taxi operators and drivers.”
The deal represents another step for the Chinese firm in its attempts to rival Uber.
It bought a Brazilian app last month, and has previously made acquisitions in India and the US.
Softbank is also heavily present in the taxi market and has taken a 15 percent stake in Uber.
The deal comes a day after automaker Toyota Motor Corp announced an investment of ￥7.5 billion (US$69 million) in the JapanTaxi app, which says it is the biggest taxi-hailing app in Japan.
The app has been downloaded about 4 million times since its launch in 2011 and is registered with about 60,000 taxis, equivalent to approximately one in every four operating nationwide, according to a statement.
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