China's Didi, SoftBank to roll out taxi venture in Japan

China's Didi, SoftBank to roll out taxi venture in Japan

China's Didi, SoftBank to roll out taxi venture in Japan

Line's hailing service sits inside its app - which is Japan's most popular messenger - and it has integrated with taxi operators that include Nihon Kotsu, but it is unclear how popular it is now following its 2015 launch.

With Didi and SoftBank set to offer yet another competitor, it is no surprise that Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has made Japan the first stop of his inaugural trip to Asia as head of the ride-sharing firm.

The two firms are also in discussion about creating a joint venture, a SoftBank spokesman told AFP, without offering more details.

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Didi and SoftBank's trial service, which will leverage Didi's "deep learning-based demand prediction and smart dispatch systems", will initially roll out in cities including Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka and Tokyo. This partnership between DiDi and SoftBank demonstrates one such effort.

The partners will engage with local industry practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders to build a platform suitable for all Japanese taxi operators, according to DiDi.

From its founding as a taxi-hailing business, DiDi has been building up a world-leading one-stop transportation platform since 2012.

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The deal comes a day after carmaker Toyota announced an investment of 7.5 billion yen ($69 million) in the JapanTaxi app, which says it is the biggest taxi-hailing app in Japan. Didi is, however, facing rising challenges at home, including a slower pace of growth, new rivals entering the market and drivers complaining that reduced subsidies mean they are working longer hours for the less pay.

Didi dominates the Chinese market - thanks in no small amount to its acquisition of second-placed Uber China - but this year it has expanded to Brazil via an acquisition and Taiwan via a franchise model, and also moved into bike-sharing and vehicle rentals.

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