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Japan slams brakes on Uber taxi service

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Uber will never fly in Japan -- vested interests. This country's taxi driver union has far too much clout for that to happen.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

I think it could be recharacterized as a private group or club serving members,,,

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Re: This country's taxi driver union has far too much clout Only if the people keep the elected officials in positions not to do anything and open the market to private citizens who want to go into business for themselves. These kind of issues s what the Abe administration should be looking into as a means to keep moving forward for Japan rather than an outdated system that has long served its purpose. I wonder if JT can enlighten its readers as to how the Taxi services and unions play into new venture companies?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Too bad about this - I use Uber every time I visit the US, and it's extremely convenient. Often much better than a taxi service.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Uber seem allright in Tokyo, I wish they had more cars but you can call taxies too with them. They are definitely more polite than taxies

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Uber is just part of the technology driven race-to-the-bottom for workers pay that should be banned or at the very least highly regulated. The company offers little value added, employs few people and reaps huge rewards.

-4 ( +11 / -15 )

@warispeace I couldn't agree with you more. Taxis in Tokyo are plenty and everywhere. Saving few hundred yen while regular taxi driver lose their jobs make no sense. Maybe those JT users that are so desperate to save few yen should upgrade their skills and get better paid jobs so they can afford regular taxis. If it were for Uber they would be driving their cars around too for a meager pay. Wonder what's in these readers' head.

-8 ( +12 / -19 )

well on rainy days when the taxi companies put the phone off the hook and are nowhere to be seen in my neighborhood Uber might be nice.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

And here I thought Ubermensch were all the rage these days in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Let the poor underpaid taxi drivers earn a crust. sure taxi companies make money but nowhere near as much as Uber. and don't collect data on us like Uber do.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

the more Taxi companies feel threatened, the better it is for the commuter , they have been having too comfy life.

2 ( +9 / -7 )

The monopolised taxi services in Tokyo and around Japan are not going to give up their monopolies easily. Instead of the transit authority shutting Uber down they should be setting up guidelines for them, including insurance. But, it's more appropriate to shut them down to protect the vested interests of current taxi firms. "Those damn pesky gaijin companies can't come into Japan and make money!"

2 ( +9 / -7 )

My feeling is that Uber will end up being obsolete fairly soon. Their only selling point is that they have invested millions of dollars to get just slightly ahead of the technological curve, but it's not going to last forever. I predict that before Uber is able to iron out the regulatory issues, there will be some easy to use app creation tool that will allow the established taxi companies and regulators to set up a similar system to Uber without the need to employ hundreds of software engineers. Just think back to the 90s when you had to hire an expensive expert to do something as simple as create a basic webpage. That's sort of where we are now with mobile apps but it won't stay that way for long.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

As we might say in German "Uber und Aus".......

0 ( +2 / -2 )

DisillusionedMar. 04, 2015 - 06:02PM JST

You do not know the meaning of the word monopoly. Price fixing maybe. Monopoly not.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Ridiculous, Uber should be allowed in completely to make the taxi companies here more competitive. Even though there are a load of taxi companies here, it's heavily cartelised, as demonstrated by the flat rate they all charge

6 ( +8 / -3 )

I smell vested interests.

Taxis in Japan are too expensive because the taxi fare has to pay for the corporate structure - i.e. twice a year bonuses for upper management.

The Transport official's concerns are groundless:

REGULAR DRIVERS

A large percentage of taxi drivers are salarymen who have lost their jobs because their firm went belly up.

INSURANCE

Surely this can be taken care of?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Then Japan should change it's laws.

There are thousands of taxis in the the cities, all going unused for one simple reason - they're too expensive.

Go to any other country in Asia (including Korea where prices for everything else are pretty much on a par with Japan) and the taxis are dirt cheap! Surprise surprise, they're full of people too!

If the taxis here were cheaper, more people would use them and drivers/companies would make more money. If it takes a company like Uber to come along and shake things up, so be it! And the govt should allow it, changing outdated laws if needed.

Of course, the taxi companies can always register their taxis on the service!

1 ( +6 / -5 )

@Disillusioned "The monopolised taxi services in Tokyo and around Japan ..."

Monopolized? I live in a smallish city in Podunk Japan and we have about ten taxi companies, and an excess of cars and drivers (except during some of the worst of blizzards). They all give excellent service, unlike the three unreliable taxi companies in my similar sized hometown in the USA.

" Instead of the transit authority shutting Uber down they should be setting up guidelines for them, including insurance."

I believe those guidelines already exist, in the form of laws regulating taxi companies, qualifications for drivers, etc.

"Those damn pesky gaijin companies can't come into Japan and make money!"

Don't you mean "...can't come into Japan and break laws!"?

If Uber or others don't like the regulations they should work to get them changed. I hope the ones that are in place for the safety of customers are not changed.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I have to wonder if this would have played out the same if Uber was a Japanese company.

Don't worry about the taxi drivers, the computer driven car virtually guarantees they will be out of work in the next 10-15 years.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

The taxi companies are annoyed because Uber actually offers value.

Uber is much cheaper - An Uber ride for sometimes 2/3s of the price in a nice clean Toyota Prius or you would have to stand out in the cold to grab a taxi, which isn't always that easy for those of us who live way outside of big cities.

You can request a quote upfront, and they are almost always accurate.

Taxi companies should evolve instead of strike.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

BertieWoosterMar. 04, 2015 - 06:47PM JST

INSURANCE

Surely this can be taken care of?

The insurance premiums for taxis are a lot more expensive than those for family cars, reflecting heavy usage.

This is a link to the table of insurance premiums for government sponsored mandatory auto insurance, jibaiseki. http://hoken.azukichi.net/jibaiseki_hayami.html

12 month insurance premium

Family car: 16,350 yen

Taxi in Tokyo: 138,760 yen

If someone uses a family car as a taxi, the insurer may cancel the insurance.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@harvey pekar "...or you would have to stand out in the cold to grab a taxi, which isn't always that easy for those of us who live way outside of big cities."

I don't live anywhere near a big city. Nearly all the local taxi companies have a system where you register your name, address, and phone number. When you want a taxi to pick you up at home you just need to phone and confirm your name as the phone number is automatically displayed and telling them where to go. You can also reserve taxis even several days ahead. When out and about, you just need to phone any company and tell them where you are. Many places, such as local restaurants or cafes will even phone for you when you are ready to go. Taxis are also to be found at train stations, hospitals, department stores, hotels etc. the only time I stand out in the cold is when I can't be bothered to get my phone out of my pocket and figure an empty taxi will be coming by soon enough.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

With all the whack jobs you hear about in the news in Japan, using Uber might be like playing Russain Roulette. Policemen here are constantly being caught perpetrating perverted crimes. Chikans are rampant. Who is going to be driving my Uber car?

Having said that, I agree with some posters that the reason so many taxis are not busy enough in Tokyo is that they charge to much, have a bad attitude, and have a habit of pretending to not know where you have asked to take them, in an attempt to pretend to be lost and rack up your fare. I avoid taxis in Tokyo like the plague, for the above reasons.

I also boycott taxis because far too many times I see them blowing red lights and driving aggressively through crosswalks, nearly ramming people, if not actually hitting them. A-holes like that don't deserve to make a buck.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Taxis in Japan are too expensive because the taxi fare has to pay for the corporate structure - i.e. twice a year bonuses for upper management.

Not true, and especially in Okinawa. The problem is there are way too many taxis on the street, and bonuses are NOT automatic. They get paid 50/50 cut of total income.

The Transport official's concerns are groundless:

WRONG again. Insurance is huge here in Japan, and even unten-daiko require the driver of the customers car to have "nishu" menkyo, or in the English equivalent a sales level drivers license, it's different licensing laws for taxi drivers and people who drive vehicles that carry passengers. Uber drivers flaunt that law.

A large percentage of taxi drivers are salarymen who have lost their jobs because their firm went belly up.

The larger percentage are over 60 with no other jobs. You have to pay roughly 150,000 to get the proper drivers license, again Uber drivers dont have that license. The insurance is HIGH on taxi companies.

Otherwise it doesnt matter if their firm went belly up or not. Taxi drivers pay is crap, many less than 150,000 per month.

INSURANCE Surely this can be taken care of?

Spoken like a truly ignorant person. Got the money? How are you going to prove you have the required insurance? And that it is up to date. Taxi companies also have to have their vehicles undergo shaken once a year. Uber drivers would also, that includes jibaiseki insurance and nii-hoken, which aint cheap. Jibai-seki is paid with the shaken and since the vehicles would be for "eigyo-yo" the cars would HAVE to get different license plates too, signifying that they are eigyo yo. They would be green plates, like all taxis have.

It's not as simple as some simple think.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@M3M3M3 "My feeling is that Uber will end up being obsolete fairly soon..."

One thing I don't get is why don't the taxi companies get together to develop their own system (including ratings of riders to avoid the few crazy people that do exist) for sharing taxis especially for service after the last train. Anyone who has lived in Japan for a while has heard countless stories of people (including us) spending 7,000, 10,000 yen or even more to get home at 2am when they would have gladly shared a taxi with one, two, or even three (four is max in a taxi according to rules) other people. Not sure if I would be willing to share a taxi with someone in Chicago but in Japan people are generally mellow and safe so I'd be fine doing this in the middle of Tokyo or Osaka. And they could even have a ladies'-only sharing service for the obvious reasons. While you are finishing up your party at the Izakaya you can try to hook up for a riding partner on your smartphone then expect to save some money.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I just dont see Uber making it in Japan. Once 1 or 2 incidents occur (sexual in nature, most likely groping) they're done.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It'll never fly in Japan. Too many groups with stronger pull than Uber. Things are very entrenched, here.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Insurance Family car: 16,350 yen, Taxi in Tokyo: 138,760 yen considering the hundreds if not thousands of trips a Taxi would make in a year 138,000yen isnt that expensive for the money a taxi can generate.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Dear JT.....you really have a problem when you dont want folks to know the truth about legality issues related to this topic. You ignorantly removed a post because you dont know......

FACT...Uber drivers are not properly licensed.

FACT...to get properly licensed the drivers need a nishu menkyo

FACT you are ignorant and narrow mined if you dont allow FACTS to be posted.

Moderator: And you are ill-mannered.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I'll never ride a Uber taxi, knowing the driver most likely is not qualified enough and with no obligation.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Uber has not much possibilities against Japan bureaucracy... I think Uber had become the "Napster" of public transportation and soon someone will be smart enough to make a official taxi-friendly service that could demolish Uber and keep the taxi drivers happy...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

the fact that taxi companies the world over have laws enforced on their industry means there were industry issues long before that were solved by these laws. Uber whatever their price structure can't just not follow these laws and say it's okay. They're being sued elsewhere I believe for not following regulations on hiring and operations. Put the same regulatory requirements upon them for the safety of the public and they won't bother, and that's probably good

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I"ve never ridden an Uber taxi. Why on earth would I get in a car on my own with a complete stranger? I may as well just hitchhike. The day someone is raped and it actually gets out (because apparently there have been a few that uber are trying to core up) certain JT posters will be yelling its the victims fault for getting in the car with a stranger.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I don't trust Uber - besides the metro will take you where you want in the city and I trusted myself or a friend in Japan or Korea. Even back stateside I use the metro system of the city I'm in when I can and if an emergency happens I use a real taxi.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Uber is not a Japanese service.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I won't use Uber in the UK for many reasons. You need proper licensed cabbies who have had proper training and criminal checks, as well as adequate insurance. I always use a real taxi if I have to.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

We have had Uuber problems with this glorified "Gypsy" cab service in N.Y.C. including price gouging &"Prime-Time prices-good luck with this outfit,you're gonna need it!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Ridiculous, Uber should be allowed in completely to make the taxi companies here more competitive.

Taxis fares in Japan are pretty reasonable. They even went down a few years ago. Jump in a licenced cab in London and your pocket takes a whack on even the shortest journey. In Japan, my family can take a taxi home from the station for little more than it would cost to take the bus, and without waiting in the cold.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@hatsoff "Taxis fares in Japan are pretty reasonable."

I agree with this. Fares don't seem to be more than what I would pay in my US hometown (for poorer service) and I especially like that I'm not expected to add a generous tip on top of it. All of the companies where I live also have some form of loyal customer program such as stamp cards, as well as discounts for senior citizens, holders of a disability certificate, a second trip in one day (called a return trip discount but you don't have to travel between the same points), etc.

Unless I lived in a town with no taxi service I can't imagine why I would want to use Uber.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I'm a fairly frequent taxi user, and still don't see any advantage to using Uber. In Tokyo, at least, most of the major taxi companies have smartphone apps for dispatch services, so if you're unhappy with one of the lower-tier companies or those rude independent drivers, you can always register with a company like KM, which maintains a very clean fleet and has well-trained, polite drivers. I looked up Uber fares for various destinations I'd typically use a taxi for, and in almost every case Uber came out 20-30% above what I pay now. Throw in a lack of insurance and inexperienced drivers, and it's just not a compelling alternative.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The thing that's nice about Uber, is that it's just really user friendly. You call a car, and you can see exactly where it is on your map, as well as about how long it will take. You can enter your destination, which gives a map for both the driver and passenger to see, so that you can make sure your driver isn't taking a long-way around. As your phone is registered in the system, drivers can phone you through the app if they are having troubles finding you. You can see their picture (and they yours, if you upload one), and the type of car they are driving, so you know exactly what you are looking for. And since your credit card into the system, you don't have to mess around with payment when you arrive, it's automatically billed to your card, and you receive an email of the receipt a few minutes after you get out of the car.

Taxi companies can learn from this. They should implement a similar system, it's the way of the future. The current system is outdated.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Like many governments, Japan's is pandering to established, traditional taxi services. Unless one is a stunt driver, being "a professional" isn't exactly a requirement. Considering that many of Tokyo's taxi drivers don't know where to go, professionalism isn't really a factor.

Uber is a user/provider centred app with great flexibility for both the customer and the drivers. It allows people to make a living, or supplement their income, and its self-regulating.

Self-regulating entities aren't popular with government which prefers tighter control, and power. The transport ministry is only doing Japanese a disservice by banning Uber.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Professionalism and criminal checks is a must. When you get in a taxi you at at the mercy of the cabbie, that's why I would never use Uber - a rag tag of dilettantes who could be convicted sex offenders, muggers, alcoholics, druggies

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Taxi permits in San Francisco were $150K for first 200 off the waiting list, $300K for anyone else who made it off the list, one-time fee, according to a 2012 article. 1429 drivers on the list. $850 per month if using city-provided financing.

Can't imagine why San Francisco hasn't made Uber, Lyft, etc. illegal.

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/200-S-F-taxi-permits-price-150-000-4055492.php

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Uber is just part of the technology driven race-to-the-bottom for workers pay that should be banned or at the very least highly regulated. The company offers little value added, employs few people and reaps huge rewards.

Thie "race to the bottom" began when the industrial era started, and contrary to what you say, it has raised our standard of living beyond the imaginations of people who lived before it. I suppose things were better when a new pair of shoes could cost several weeks of an average person's salary? Would you prefer to live in the pre-global, pre-industrial economy when salaries and lifespans were a fraction of what they are now?

@warispeace I couldn't agree with you more. Taxis in Tokyo are plenty and everywhere. Saving few hundred yen while regular taxi driver lose their jobs make no sense. Maybe those JT users that are so desperate to save few yen should upgrade their skills and get better paid jobs so they can afford regular taxis. If it were for Uber they would be driving their cars around too for a meager pay. Wonder what's in these readers' head.

God, how funny is this? Perhaps if taxi drivers wanted to make more money, they could upgrade their skills so they could get better paid jobs?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I see very few comments that actually address the issues at hand. You must have a professional license to drive passengers commercially. Not much of a way around this the way Uber wants to do business.

Basically Uber is running a high tech gypsy cab service. No thanks, I'd rather ride with a professional driver that actually carries insurance and is regulated.

If you want this sort of service, try something like Line Taxi instead. Actually works within existing laws.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

These comments are quite strange... at least in Tokyo majority of taxi drivers has no clue where they are going without gps and lots of them cant even use that properly ( or do it maliciously ) , they are often rude too. I had stellar experience with uber everytime in here and in uk , you both know the route and how much it will cost ,cars are way nicer and i dont even need to open my wallet or have it with me at all.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

We've used Uber before - no problems.

Even let us use our own music on the bluetooth car radio!

(And they pick up your food and clothing donations for charity, no charge, just tell 'em when and where to pick it up.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

JT obviously has a vested interest in seeing Uber succeed here. Which means that JT is promoting illegal services.

Buyer beware. If one uses an Uber driver and something happens you could be held liable as well.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There’s no doubt about Uber taxi service was breaking the transport law in most of countries where Governments have issued Taxi License to Taxi Company or individual Taxi owner. In Australia, one Taxi License value or Taxi License transfer price is $ 530,000 in Melbourne and $ 650,000 in Gold Coast. If Uber Taxi sharing service was operating without proper Taxi License and then Government issued Taxi License was worthless and Government must refund Taxi License fee to Taxi owner. Without Taxi License, driver who is ferrying and taken fee from passengers was illegal in Australia’s transport law. I believe Uber Taxi sharing service is breaking the Japanese transport law too.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japan's taxi drivers professional? By what comparison? I once had a drunk driver almost slam the cab into a guard rail on a 5 minute ride in Kobe.And the number of surly drivers I have encountered make for bad memories.

Uber need to put a dent in the market!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

at least in Tokyo majority of taxi drivers has no clue where they are going without gps and lots of them cant even use that properly

The majority? You've ridden in that many of the 50,000 taxis in Tokyo?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@sangetsu

Thie "race to the bottom" began when the industrial era started, and contrary to what you say, it has raised our standard of living beyond the imaginations of people who lived before it. I suppose things were better when a new pair of shoes could cost several weeks of an average person's salary? Would you prefer to live in the pre-global, pre-industrial economy when salaries and lifespans were a fraction of what they are now?

Oooh, let me fink. Umm, I'd raver live today. Fanks for explaining it so well.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Taxi, Ride-sharing/Car-sharing, Private hire?......Uber is a tad coy,

Do Uber drivers have adequate taxi insurance?

http://parkinsurance.co.uk/uber-drivers-adequate-taxi-insurance/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Alex

I second that.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

An Uber driver turned into a crosswalk in San Francisco and killed a little kid and injured her mother and brother.

Uber claimed he wasn't accessing their app at the time, to look for new riders, and wasn't on a call at the time, so it's not their fault and not their insurance.

Think there have been complaints about Uber drivers using personal auto insurance rather than commercial, which is more expensive. Personal insurance isn't going to pay out a claim if you're found to have been driving commercially. But proof of insurance lets you keep from getting ticketed for violating the no-insurance law.

Comments to related articles on SFGate get quite heated, taxi drivers vs. Uber supporters.

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Uber-denies-fault-in-S-F-crash-that-killed-girl-5458290.php

Uber denies fault in S.F. crash that killed girl, May 7, 2014 - Attorneys for Uber said the ride-sharing company was not liable for the New Year's Eve death of 6-year-old Sofia Liu in San Francisco, because the driver was an independent contractor and had no reason to be actively engaged with the app at the time.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

An Uber driver turned into a crosswalk in San Francisco and killed a little kid and injured her mother and brother.

Yes, but he did it more cheaply than a taxi would have. Would you rather live in a world where shoes cost you several weeks' wages?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

wipeout: ...

City governments in US paying off outrageous lawsuits all the time, to criminals, etc., and haven't noticed the price of shoes going up much. I don't think judgments against taxi companies will affect the price of shoes, either, to any measurable degree.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Professionalism and criminal checks is a must. When you get in a taxi you at at the mercy of the cabbie, that's why I would never use Uber - a rag tag of dilettantes who could be convicted sex offenders, muggers, alcoholics, druggies

A trifle over-wrought, and baseless Ms Heath.

There’s no doubt about Uber taxi service was breaking the transport law in most of countries where Governments have issued Taxi License to Taxi Company or individual Taxi owner.

Uber is also giving consumers alternative to the traditional taxi industry. Having a license to drive a taxi doesn't make one a better driver, or more knowledgeable about a city.

There's nothing altruistic in the government's actions here. An established, complacent industry is facing a disruptive, and competitive force, and is using trivial regulations to block it instead of competing.

Uber, and services like TaskRabbit, Medicast, etc, are examples of free enterprise, and free market economics. They democratize markets once controlled by a select few.

This is the future of the workplace, and of the economy. It should be embraced, and supported, not stymied at the behest of special interests.

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21637393-rise-demand-economy-poses-difficult-questions-workers-companies-and

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Uber is a tough sell in Japan, because unlike many other countries in the world, the taxis in Japan are not only plentiful but spotless, efficient and provide high quality service. You don't get the drama and belligerent behavior often encountered in the US or Europe.

The one key benefit of Uber is the ability handle payments through the smart phone.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The one key benefit of Uber is the ability handle payments through the smart phone.

It's amazing that even with an example of an excellent web service (Uber), we don't see taxi companies creating their own app(s) to match it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japanese taxi companies are owned and operated by organized crime.

I've been in several accidents with taxis over the years here and they are a sneaky ugly pack of rats.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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