Sony Goes after Japanese Ride-Sharing Market

Shares in Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) enjoyed slight gains Tuesdy morning, after the electronics giant announced partnerships with several taxi firms to start a ride-hailing service in Japan on Tuesday.

Hours later, Uber's CEO Dara Khosrowshahi signaled his company's intention to expand further into the country.

Sony's ride-hailing service will be based on its artificial intelligence (AI) technology, the company said in a press release.

The Japanese electronics giant, along with Daiwa Motor Transportation Corporation and five other taxi firms, will aim to establish the new company in the spring.

The six taxi businesses together own 10,000 vehicles, and provide services mainly in the capital of Tokyo. Sony's AI technology will be used to predict taxi demand and make sure the right number of cars is available for users.

Sony's announcement adds another player to the already fiercely competitive Japanese taxi app market.

Further expansion in Japan comes as Uber has retreated from some key international markets and is considering whether to sell its Southeast Asia unit to Singapore-based rival Grab.

Japan, with its mature smartphone market, could provide an opportunity for growth.

Tough rules govern ride-hailing apps in Japan. Non-professional drivers are effectively barred from offering taxi services, so apps like Uber have to link riders with existing taxi fleets. That means its core service, that it offers in major markets like the U.S. and U.K., is not in full operation in Japan.

In New York, Sony shares advanced 22 cents midday Tuesday to $49.77