Uber, which has been fighting off Google products and rival Lyft, is headed to the land of Pikachu and ramen as it plans to launch its first taxi-hailing pilot service in Japan. Given that Uber is barred from operating its own fleet of drivers, the offering aims to connect passengers with other taxi providers in the island country in a first for the technology-based service firm.
At least 20 local taxi companies will be linked to prospective passengers in the next couple of months, as Uber rolls the app to tourists and residents of the 150,000-people rich Awaji island near Osaka in a pilot programme that will run through March 2019.
Uber Japan spokesperson Kay Hattori said, “Currently we are concentrating on partnerships with taxi companies in the country.”
“We would like to expand this nationwide,” she added, hinting further expansion.
Even though Uber’s hit taxi service has been banned in Japan, it operates its food takeaway delivery service in Tokyo, Osaka and two other cities in the country.
Japan’s prosperous $16-billion taxicab industry has been in the international company’s crosshairs for quite a long time, and if the pilot program succeeds, it could be a good lift for Uber over rival Lyft. In a packed industry where China’s Didi Chuxing and SoftBank Group Corp, and even giants such as Toyota and Sony Corp are planning various services partnering local taxi companies, it’s a tough road ahead for Uber, for sure.
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