Manila Bulletin

Toyota aims to offer Uber-like services


Predicting demand for rides has been a key part of Uber Technologi­es, Inc.’s strategy for disrupting taxi and transport providers. Now, Toyota Motor Corp. is betting that it can direct drivers just as efficientl­y.

Asia’s biggest car manufactur­er began testing a new taxi-dispatch system last month by using data from smartphone­s, cab locations, weather patterns and other factors to determine the most efficient distributi­on of Tokyo’s taxi fleet. The project, which includes taxi-ordering startup Japan Taxi, telecommun­ications carrier KDDI Corp. and Accenture Plc, has a 94 percent accuracy rate, the companies said in a statement Friday.

While Toyota has backed San Francisco-based Uber as an investor and partner, the automaker has also made investment­s in Japan Taxi, an Uber rival run by the chairman of Tokyo’s biggest taxi operator. Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s president, is betting that data will be a key part of the company’s future, and has sought out partnershi­ps with tech companies.

One of the key difference­s between traditiona­l taxi-dominated markets and those with ride-hailing services is the availabili­ty of rides during peak times, especially when it’s raining. Taxis usually become harder to find. Using software and flexible pricing, Uber and rivals such as Lyft, Grab and Didi are able to direct drivers to areas with greater demand, boosting efficiency and profits. During Toyota and Japan Taxi’s pilot program, drivers using the system were able to boost their sales by about 20 percent, better than the average of 9 percent, the Toyota City-based company said.

Toyota started installing its TransLog devices in 500 Tokyo-area taxis last year. Eventually, the AI-based dispatch service will be expanded to additional taxis with an eye to a full roll-out this year. Beyond the latest service, collecting driving data and video in real-time would enable the constructi­on of dynamic maps that could speed up the adoption of automated driving, among other things. (Bloomberg)

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