— Japan may be getting ready to allow ride sharing. A government panel will soon start discussing this possibility.
The Regulatory Reform Promotion Council is to discuss the matter and come up with a recommendation in a report to be compiled in June.
The taxi industry, which would face a serious challenge from ride-sharing services, is expected to oppose the plan, potentially slowing the introduction.
Ride sharing is being considered as a way to address the increasing transportation needs of all the foreign tourists flooding into the country. The tsunami is only expected to grow as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approaches.
Ride-sharing apps, now common in many countries, match drivers with people looking for a lift. They help car owners make some extra cash in their spare time and give people who need to be somewhere a way to get there.
Uber Technologies, the U.S. ride-sharing pioneer, already operates in over 70 countries.
In Japan, however, this kind of arrangement is prohibited under the Road Transportation Act, which would need to be amended if ride sharing is to be sanctioned.
Last year, Japan allowed ride sharing in certain areas on an experimental basis, but only in sparsely populated zones.
The government is trying to raise the annual number of foreign visitors to 40 million by 2020. It is hoped that fully sanctioning ride sharing would not only make it easier for tourists to get around but the elderly as well.
The transportation ministry opposes going in this direction, citing passenger safety issues. If ride sharing is approved, it wants to clarify driver accountability when accidents happen and impose strict requirements on drivers.