"Didi and SoftBank will diligently study local market conditions and policies, and will actively engage with industry practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders, with the aim of building an open and inclusive platform that will be available to all of Japan's taxi operators", the Chinese firm said in an announcement. The two companies expect to launch a joint venture in Japan soon with plans to start pilot programs in Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Tokyo and other locations this year.
China's Didi Chuxing and SoftBank Group Corp will roll out a venture in Japan later this year to provide ride-hailing services, amid a global battle to control the technology increasingly central to urban transport.
From its founding as a taxi-hailing business, DiDi has been building up a world-leading one-stop transportation platform since 2012. The auto sharing market in China alone is set to grow 40 per cent between 2017 and 2024, according to a study by GM Insights cited by Didi.
In Japan, ride-hailing companies face strict rules that effectively bar non-professional drivers from offering taxi services on safety grounds, and are limited to services that "match" users to existing taxi fleets via mobile platforms. DiDi is also working closely with taxi companies to help them build intelligent IT and driver management systems.
The focus is on taxi drivers and taxi operator firms because peer-to-peer ride services are not legal in Japan.
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The Renault-Nissan-Mitsibushi automotive alliance announced earlier this week it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Didi to join the project, which also has Chinese auto giant BYD and local partners of Ford on board. The first generation of large-scale, new energy car-sharing platforms are expected to materialize in core emerging countries such as China.
At least 12 automakers are set to be involved in the project, Didi said, which will allow members of its service to rent electric vehicles (EVs) on demand via an app.
SoftBank holds stakes in Didi, Indian rival Ola and Southeast Asia's Grab.
DiDi believes the new program will reduce cost and enhance efficiency for the entire industry chain by integrating resources from cars, capital, parking spaces, charging points and refueling stations, to auto-maintenance and fix services in a new, open ecosystem of collaboration.