Sony wants to use artificial intelligence to more efficiently dispatch taxis in Japan. The electronics giant is partnering with five Japanese taxi companies to commercialize the concept, reports Nikkei Asian Review. The project could make Sony into a major player in a market where Uber is a minor presence.
Sony hopes to build a platform that will coordinate taxis based on factors like past rides, traffic, weather conditions, and local events. Riders will likely use an app, just like Uber, but will ride in actual taxis rather than privately-owned ride-sharing vehicles. Uber is only allowed to operate in certain sparsely-populated areas of Japan because of strict regulations.
Those regulations make an Uber-style ride-sharing service impossible in Japan, but various companies are trying to use technology to improve traditional taxi services. Last year, NTT Docomo began testing AI-based software designed to predict ride requests.
More recently, Toyota invested 7.5 billion yen ($70 million) in JapanTaxi, an app-development arm of taxi operator Nihon Kotsu, also with the goal of developing an AI-based dispatching system. Both Uber and Chinese rival Didi Chuxing have talked with Japanese taxi operators about providing dispatch systems (Japanese firm SoftBank is a major investor in both Uber and Didi). But with five taxi companies already signed up, Sony may have a head start.