TOKYO (Kyodo) – Japan’s Transport Ministry said on Friday that it will approve nationwide taxi-sharing services starting next week, allowing foreigners to drive the same vehicle in a bid to offer users greater convenience while increasing operator productivity.
Thanks to taxi-sharing, which will require users to make reservations through a smartphone app, users pay less than for an individual taxi. At the same time, operators are better able to meet demand, even in areas facing a shortage of drivers.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism expects taxi companies to take several months to prepare their reservation systems for the launch of the taxi-sharing service.
To reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 among passengers, the ministry said it will seek to ensure that operators implement anti-virus measures, including limiting the number of passengers per car and requiring drivers and passengers to wear masks.
As users enter their pickup location, destination, and the time they want to make a ride on an operator’s smartphone app, they can be paired with other users going in the same direction. The fare is divided between passengers according to the distance traveled.
Taxi companies are authorized to provide the service by reservation only. Currently, taxi drivers are prohibited from picking up passengers who are not traveling together.
To address safety concerns, passengers must agree on several points beforehand, including the type of vehicle and route they will take and the gender of other passengers.