Sony launches a taxi-hailing app to rival Uber in Tokyo

Sony last year announced it would enter Japan’s taxi-hailing space and, good to its word, the electronics giant has kicked off its S.Ride service in Tokyo.

The service — which was first noted by CNET — is a joint venture between Sony, its payment services subsidiary and five licensed taxi companies. Because ride-hailing with civilian cars is illegal in Japan, the service will focus on connecting licensed taxis with passengers. The electronics giant previously played up its use of AI to match supply and demand and, on the payment side, it supports QR scans as well as an Uber-style cashless credit card.

All together, S.Ride claims to cover 10,000 licensed taxis in Tokyo. Its largest competition is JapanTaxi, a venture from the taxi industry that’s backed by Toyota among others, which claims 50,000 vehicles across Japan as a whole. Other rivals include chat app Line, which has offered taxi-hailing for years; Uber, which has been working on striking deals with taxi operators; and China’s Didi Chuxing, which operates a joint-venture with Uber investor SoftBank. Lyft has expressed an interest in Japan, where its investor Rakuten is a major name,┬ábut it has not expanded there yet.

A Sony spokesperson told CNET there are no plans to launch S.Ride overseas, so we can file this in the “only in Japan” file.