Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Toyota Partnering With Japan Taxi Group After Uber Deal Blowback

  • Taxi group and Toyota to experiment with automated driving
  • Akio Toyoda has reassured taxi group angry over Uber alliance

Toyota Motor Corp. said it will collaborate with Japan’s taxi association and emphasized its 80-year history of working with the industry, weeks after the group excoriated the automaker’s alliance with Uber Technologies Inc.

The Japan Federation of Hire-Taxi Associations and Toyota will establish a task force that regularly meets on items including experimentation with automated driving technology, the carmaker said in a statement Friday. Toyota has a next-generation taxi model that will be made available to Japan cab drivers starting next year.

The taxi federation criticized Toyota’s investment in Uber during its annual meeting in June, Bloomberg News reported last month. President Akio Toyoda met with and tried to reassure the federation’s chairman that the tie-up won’t affect Japan. Masataka Tomita, the chairman, had said Toyota was “sending supplies to our enemy.”

“The Japan Federation of Hire-Taxi Associations and Toyota are joining hands in this pursuit, to enhance the convenience for a broad range of customers including the elderly, families with children, and foreign tourists,” Toyota said in its statement. Collaboration on analyzing road traffic environment and experimenting with automated driving technology will be carried out in Tokyo, according to the company.

The memorandum of understanding signed by Toyota and the 200,000-taxi federation is indicative of the pressure the automaker was under to appease an important ally. Toyota enjoys an 80 percent share of the Japan’s cab fleet, according to the federation. At the same time, Toyota’s deal with Uber reflected the heat the carmaker faced in keeping up with rivals including General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG, which have ride-sharing alliances of their own.

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