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Sony Is Building an A.I.-Based Taxi Service to Take on Uber

February 20, 2018, 12:08 PM UTC

Within hours of each other on Tuesday morning, Sony announced a new ride-hailing service in Japan and Uber announced it would be expanding in the country.

Sony’s platform will be based on its artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The new service will be a joint venture between Sony (SNE), Daiwa Motor Transportation and five other domestic taxi companies in Japan’s crowded market. The six taxi companies own 10,000 cars between them. Sony’s technology is intended to predict demand for taxis to ensure the right number of cars are on the street.

Hours after Sony’s announcement, Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, who is in Tokyo meeting regulators, told investors that the company should change the way it does business in Japan, shifting their focus to partnerships with the taxi industry, though it was not immediately clear how he intended to shift the company’s approach. His comments come days after it emerged that Uber was preparing to hand over its Southeast Asia business to Grab, a competitor.

SoftBank Group (SFTBY) and China’s Didi Chuxing also plan to launch a venture in Japan this year. SoftBank is the largest shareholder in Uber. SoftBank also has large investments in several other ride-hailing companies, including Grab, leading some to call the Japanese conglomerate the “real king of ride-hailing.”