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Toyota-SoftBank venture to start taxi ride-sharing trial in Tokyo

This combined photo shows Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda, left, and SoftBank Group Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A joint venture set up by Toyota Motor Corp. and SoftBank Corp. said Monday it will launch a trial taxi ride-sharing service for business commuters using a smartphone app next week in Tokyo.

The autonomous vehicle service venture called Monet Technologies Inc. will provide the service for customers commuting to the Marunouchi business district in central Tokyo from Feb. 26 to March 22 to collect data for future vehicle services.

Customers need to enter the places of departure and destination on the smartphone app to use the service and a minivan can carry up to four passengers who travel to neighboring destinations.

A similar service will also be offered during the same period to parents working in the area to drop their children off at nurseries, Monet said. SoftBank holds a 50.25 percent stake in the venture with the rest held by Toyota.

Monet said separately it will tie up with 17 municipalities, including Yokohama near Tokyo and Nagoya in central Japan, to offer bus ride-sharing services.

In Japan, ride-sharing services are available only in limited areas due in part to regulatory barriers.

Toyota aims to launch services using autonomous vehicles in 2020. The automaker hopes to use such vehicles for restaurant, convenience store and office operations in the future.

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