Sony Corp is moving forward with plans to introduce a taxi-hailing service in Japan, unveiling a joint venture with cab companies called “Everybody’s Taxi.”
The Japanese electronics maker, which in February announced that it was forming the alliance, said it would begin services within the current fiscal year, which runs through March next year.
Subsidiary Sony Payment Services was also added to the project, indicating that it plans to include transaction settlement with its dispatch service.
Sony said that its seven taxi-company partners have a combined fleet of more than 10,000 cars in Tokyo.
The joint venture plans to use artificial intelligence to make sure that supply meets demand, so that passengers are efficiently matched with rides.
Japan’s ride-hailing industry is seeing much more activity these days. Uber Technologies Inc is to start a taxi-hailing pilot program in the remote island of Awaji this summer, while China’s Didi Chuxing Technology Co (滴滴出行) plans to begin trial services with a local taxi operator. Japan Taxi, the dispatch app run by the chairman of Nihon Kotsu Co, has also been promoting its services.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is to bring even more tourists and taxi companies are looking for ways to make it easier for customers to hail cabs and get to their destinations.
In related news, Warren Buffett earlier this year proposed investing US$3 billion in Uber, but the talks fell apart following disagreements over the terms and size of the deal, people familiar with the matter said.
Buffett’s initial offer was well over US$3 billion, one of the people said.
During negotiations, Uber chief executive officer Dara Khosrowshahi proposed decreasing the size of the deal to US$2 billion, hoping to get Buffett’s backing while giving him a potentially smaller share of the company, one person said.
However, the deal fell apart after the two sides could not agree on terms, one of the people said.
A spokesman for Uber declined to comment. Buffett confirmed the talks to CNBC.
“I’m a great admirer of Dara. Some of the reported details are not correct, but it’s true that Berkshire Hathaway Inc had discussions with Uber,” Buffett said.
Uber’s cash position remains strong. At the end of the first quarter, Uber had US$6.3 billion in cash, along with a US$1.5 billion term loan that is to be recorded in the second quarter.
The discussions with Berkshire took place as Uber pursued its term loan, which it closed in March.
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