Uber has been given permission to operate in Japan’s Kyotango city, particularly in its Tango region. This community is very small, having a minuscule population of only 5,560 — it is too small for regular taxi companies to operate, and lacks that transportation option. Most of the population is composed of elderly individuals (those over 65) who have scant options for getting around…that is, until Uber rolls out some cars in the region.
Uber has continually run into trouble penetrating the Japanese market largely due to regulations that prohibit non-commercial drivers from operating what are essentially taxies. As well, and as in many other places around the world, local taxi companies were also concerned that an influx of Uber drivers would undercut the taxi industry.
According to Reuters, Uber will be rolling out 18 registered vehicles in Tango, and it will be supplying 50 tablets for the elderly in the city to use for ordering cars. This is due to a combination of issues, namely that mobile phone usage among the elderly is low, and tablets are easier to see than phones.
It seems Uber is hoping it can further expand its presence in Japan by launching service in other depopulated regions. Residents have expressed excitement at the company’s arrival, with on-demand cars being far more convenient than the current — and relatively sparse — bus service available in Tango. Some transportation businesses in Kyotango, though, are more reserved about the incoming service, expressing worries that it could cut into their local business.