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Politics

Japan to let taxis set fares before rides

Smartphone service intended to allay customer concerns

Taxi customers currently do not know the fare until their rides are completed, something that will change with a new service using smartphone apps. (Photo by Hirofumi Yamamoto)
Taxi customers currently do not know the fare until their rides are completed, something that will change with a new service using smartphone apps. (Photo by Hirofumi Yamamoto)

TOKYO -- Taxi riders in Japan will be able to confirm their fares in advance, under new transport ministry regulations designed to eliminate concerns over how much a ride will cost and encourage the use of cabs by foreign tourists.

The rule change takes effect around April, and taxi companies are expected to roll out the feature as early as this year.

A rider enters the destination on a mobile app and pays a fare based on the distance and a rate that accounts for potential congestion. Riders will not have to pay more when stuck in traffic, as is the case with metered fares. A 2017 trial drew generally positive feedback.

The set fares also will apply when a rider hails a cab on the street without booking in advance.

Taxi companies need to submit a description of the mobile app to the ministry for approval, along with other information.

Predetermined fares are common in ride-hailing services like Uber, which have taken root widely in the U.S. and other parts of Asia. But these services have not thrived in Japan, because drivers are not permitted to offer such rides using their personal vehicles.

Demand for convenient, worry-free transportation is growing as Japan welcomes more foreign visitors and its rising ranks of senior citizens stop driving their own cars. The government also is considering deregulation for shared taxi rides, propelled by the advance of digital technologies.

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