Line Taxi launches to drive Uber out of Japan
Tue 6 Jan 2015
Japanese messaging giant Line has entered the Asian taxi app battle with its new add-on – Line Taxi, set to rival the so far undisputed Uber for regional top spot.
Unlike other Asian countries, such as China and India which list a number of taxi app rivalries, Japan has lived under the peaceful reign of Uber – its only competition in the form of Osaka-based Hailo. Today however sees Line launch its own cab-hailing app.
Line Taxi is not available as a separate download, but as an in-app service with customers accessing the taxi service via the main messaging app. In a similar fashion to Uber, the app uses GPS to locate the user and hail a nearby taxi. Payments are made across Line Pay with a registered credit card.
Line has unveiled the new service in partnership with Japan’s largest taxi company, Nihon Kotsu, with 3,340 taxis in the Tokyo region and around 23,000 cars across Japan. Line Taxi will initially launch in Tokyo, as well as cities Mitaka and Musashino. The firm hopes to announce further expansion plans soon to compete more aggressively against Uber’s dominance.
Feedback from early usage suggests Line Taxi is able to offer better coverage and shorter wait times than Uber. A user at Shinjuku Station, one of Japan’s busiest intersections, was offered a 21-minute wait for an Uber-registered vehicle, as opposed to a five minute wait time for one of five nearby Line Taxis.
Line Taxi is currently limited to a domestic market, requiring that the user holds a Japanese driving license, as well as a Japanese credit card. Uber can therefore still hold its position with foreign passengers, with Tokyo expecting 20 million tourists annually by 2020. A reasonable chunk, considering Japan’s population currently stands at 127 million and is expected to rapidly fall by a million people a year.
However, Line is considering international expansion and has suggested an English interface will follow in the future.