Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday the government plans to promote ride-sharing services that are currently banned in most areas to help secure transportation in rural areas.
“It is necessary to review the current system from the standpoint of (transportation service) users,” Abe said in a meeting to discuss growth strategies and structural reform measures.
Necessary legal revisions eyed for the deregulation would also allow taxi operators, which have opposed ride-sharing, to engage in the management of ride-sharing operations, government officials said.
Ride-sharing services that match drivers of personal vehicles with people seeking transportation are prohibited in Japan except in areas where no public transportation is available. Only local residents are allowed to use such services, typically managed by local governments and nonprofit organizations.
“The involvement of taxi operators will benefit both municipalities and service users” as it will lessen local governments’ burden in running ride-sharing operations while enhancing users’ convenience in areas where there are not enough drivers, Abe said.
Details will be finalized by summer and a bill to revise a transportation law will be submitted to the Diet next year, the officials said.
Once the ban is lifted, tourists would also be able to use such services, they said.
In addition, the government plans to relax rules on taxi use, allowing customers to share taxis with strangers, they said.
In response to the news of the government plan to allow ride-sharing services, members of a taxi industry labor union staged a demonstration in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district, where government ministries and agencies are concentrated.
Around 400 taxis gathered in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and some of them went on to the headquarters of SoftBank Group Corp., which has been investing in overseas ride-sharing companies.