Major Japanese online service provider DeNA announced the launch of their limited “Zero Yen Taxi” service at a press conference early this month, according to an article by the Nikkei Asian Review on Dec. 6.
In a project that will run until December 31st, 50 taxi cabs covered in advertisements for Nissin Foods Holdings’ instant noodles are free to ride within Tokyo’s 23 wards.
Under the payment model for this limited-time service, the cab ride costs will fall not on the passenger but rather on DeNA and its sponsor Nissin as part of a bid by the company to gain a foothold in the crowded car-hailing market.
The free rides will be available via the company’s taxi-hailing Mov app (also free but Japanese only). All users need to do is select their pickup location and choose a cab on a map in the app. Pickup is available in central Tokyo locations only but you can go anywhere within the city’s 23 wards.
Private vehicle ride-hailing services like Uber are technically banned, though they do exist, and while you can find apps like Japan Taxi all these services together only amount to 1% of cab usage in Japan. The vast majority of taxis are hailed in person or by phone.
Debuted in April in Kanagawa, the Mov app currently connects to around 4,000 vehicles in Tokyo by partnering with different local taxi providers. The app enables booking via smartphone and a real-time interface — much like Uber — with the details of the cab’s location, ETA and license plate. They already have plans to expand to Osaka at the beginning of 2019.
DeNA’s Executive Officer and Head of Automotive Business Unit, Hiroshi Nakashima, said during the launch announcement that simply bringing in foreign taxi hailing apps has had little impact, and that it’s necessary to devise a service unique to Japan.
Nakashima also stated that one of the goals of this project is for DeNA to “connect with people who don’t normally take taxis.”
Writer @shin5mt tweeted his experience hailing one of the taxis and it seems that he even enjoyed the advertisement for Nissin noodles:
軽い気持ちで どん兵衛タクシー 呼んだら本当に来て、タクシー可愛いしドライバーさん優しいし無料で焦ったし吉岡里帆さん可愛い。
— shin5 (@shin5mt) December 5, 2018
You can download the Mov app on iTunes or Google Play. If you do manage to catch one, tag us #gaijinpot with your review!