IT Media is reporting that Uber Japan will launch two new services starting August 5. UberTaxi will bring the functionality of the classic UberBlack to regular taxis while UberTaxiLux will do the same for more stylish vehicles.
Since Uber’s entrance into Tokyo last year, the service has gained popularity but has only had a limited, undisclosed number of black cars. Uber must have seen enough positive growth because it is making Tokyo the launchpad for Asia’s first UberTaxi and the world’s first UberTaxiLux.
For passengers who just want transportation and are not too concerned with frills, UberTaxi, as its name implies, connects passengers with ordinary taxi drivers through its app. Same as the regular UberBlack service, the payment will be handled via the Uber app. The available cars will be regular taxi cabs associated with companies that have agreed to install Uber’s system into their vehicles. Rates will be unchanged from what the cab usually charges.
UberTaxiLux however, will have you travelling in a BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS, or even a Toyota Alphard according to TechCrunch Japan. Similar to the basic UberTaxi version, the cars and drivers are supplied by third party companies which have entered into a partnership with Uber. The rate will be unchanged except for an additional 500 Japanese yen (approximately US$5) added to the flat rate and paid to Uber. What is a little odd, is that if you swap out the Toyota Alphard for a Toyota Crown Royal, UberTaxiLux essentially becomes UberBlack. Both services offer on-demand black car service with no discernable difference other than the fact that UberTaxiLux drivers are not freelancers but are employed by transportation companies.
That difference, though small, is likely the reason for creating the UberTaxiLux service in the first place. As Tech in Asia has previously reported, Uber is registered as a travel agency in Japan. That being so, it’s main function should be facilitating the transportation of users from Point A to Point B.
If Uber started stockpiling freelance drivers, as it does in America, then the perception could be that Uber is not just facilitating the transportation but actively creating and managing the means of transportation. Expanding its driver base via third-party tie-ups will keep the glare of Japan’s regulators away while furthering Uber’s plans for conquering the Japanese market. In markets like Paris and Brussels, Uber has not shied away from regulatory fights but, in Japan at least, the company appears to value the art of the compromise.
We have reached out to Uber Japan for further comment and will update this piece when we hear back.