Toyota to Offer Uber-Like Services via AI

Toyota Motor Corp. has begun testing a new taxi-dispatch system by using data from smartphones, cab locations, weather patterns and other factors to determine the most efficient distribution of Tokyo’s taxi fleet.

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

Uber-Like Service

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 supported 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 the data will be a crucial 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 is 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 rollout this year.

Beyond the latest service, collecting driving data and video in real-time would allow the construction of dynamic maps that could make the adoption of automated driving get going among other things.

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