Uber’s taxi-hailing pilot program will be launched in the coming months in Awaji, an island near Osaka, and will include vehicles operated by more than 20 local taxi companies. The program will run through March of 2019.
Uber can’t bring its own hailing-service to Japan due to local regulations that outlaw non-professional drivers from transporting paying customers. However, the U.S. company is already operating its UberEats food delivery service in four Japanese cities.
“Currently we are concentrating on partnerships with taxi companies in the country,” said Uber Japan spokeswoman Kay Hattori. “We would like to expand this nationwide.”
Meanwhile, there are other Uber projects currently active in Japan, such as two ride-hailing pilot services for elderly people in rural towns, reports Autonews.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi stated that the company must change the way it does business in Japan by focusing on partnerships with taxi companies, an industry worth as much as $16 billion in the land of the rising sun.
At the same time, Chinese companies Didi Chuxing and SoftBank Group Corp have announced their own intentions of launching a venture in Japan, focused on providing ride-hailing services. Toyota and Sony have also partnered with local taxi firms in an attempt to develop AI-based services that can predict usage and demand.