Japan’s Sony to form alliance to build taxi-hailing system

Sony plans to build the AI-based hailing platform with Daiwa Motor Transportation and five other domestic taxi firms. (Reuters)
Updated 20 February 2018
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Japan’s Sony to form alliance to build taxi-hailing system

TOKYO: Sony Corp. said on Tuesday it would become the latest blue-chip firm to jockey for position in Japan’s taxi and ride-hailing market, with plans for a joint venture to develop an artificial intelligence-based hailing system.
Japan is seen as a potentially lucrative ride-hailing market, with regulators under pressure to ease stringent rules.
Currently, non-professional drivers are barred from offering taxi services on safety grounds, and ride-hailing companies are limited to services that “match” users to existing taxi fleets via mobile platforms.
Sony plans to build the AI-based hailing platform with Daiwa Motor Transportation and five other domestic taxi firms.
This month, SoftBank Group Corp. and China’s Didi Chuxing said they would roll out a venture in Japan this year to provide matching services.
Toyota Motor Corp. has said it will take a stake in taxi-hailing service JapanTaxi, set up by Japan’s largest taxi firm, Nihon Kotsu.
Uber’s new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, is in Tokyo meeting regulators on his first visit to the region in post.


Rising oil prices haven’t hurt the US economy so far as economy grew at its fastest rate in nearly four years

Updated 3 min 1 sec ago
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Rising oil prices haven’t hurt the US economy so far as economy grew at its fastest rate in nearly four years

DALLAS: The US’s rediscovered prowess in oil production is shaking up old notions about the impact of higher crude prices on the country’s economy.
It has long been conventional wisdom that rising oil prices hurt the economy by forcing consumers to spend more on gasoline and heating their homes, leaving less for other things.
Presumably that kind of run-up would slow the US economy. Instead, the economy grew at its fastest rate in nearly four years during the April-through-June quarter.
Despite this, President Donald Trump appears plainly worried about rising oil prices just a few weeks before midterm elections that will decide which party controls the House and Senate.
“We protect the countries of the Middle East, they would not be safe for very long without us, and yet they continue to push for higher and higher oil prices!” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “We will remember. The OPEC monopoly must get prices down now!“
Members of OPEC, who account for about one-third of global oil supplies, are scheduled to meet this weekend with non-members including Russia.
The gathering is not expected to yield any big decisions — those typically come at major OPEC meetings such as the one set for December. Oil markets, however, were roiled on Friday by a report that attendees were considering a significant increase in production to offset declining output from Iran, where exports have fallen ahead of Trump’s reimposition of sanctions.
OPEC and Russia have capped production since January 2017 to bolster prices. Output fell even below those targets this year, and in June the same countries agreed to boost the oil supply, although they didn’t give numbers.
Oil prices have been up roughly 40 percent in the past year. On Friday, benchmark US crude was trading around $71 a barrel, and the international standard, Brent, was closing in on $80.
The national average price for gasoline stood at $2.85 per gallon, up 10 percent from a year ago, according to auto club AAA. That increase likely would be greater were it not for a slump in gasoline demand that is typical for this time of year, when summer vacations are over.
The US still imports about six million barrels of oil a day on average, but that is down from more than 10 million a decade ago. In the same period, US production has doubled to more than 10 million barrels a day, according to government figures.
“Because the US now is producing so much more than it used to, (the rise in oil prices) is not as big an impact as it would have been 20 years ago or 10 years ago,” said Michael Maher, an energy researcher at Rice University and a former Exxon Mobil economist.
The weakening link between oil and the overall economy was seen — in reverse — just three years ago. Then, plunging oil prices were expected to boost the economy by leaving more money in consumers’ pocket, yet GDP growth slowed at the same time that lower oil prices took hold during 2015.
Other economists caution against minimizing the disruption caused by energy prices.
“Higher oil prices are unambiguously bad for the US economy,” said Philip Verleger, an economist who has studied energy markets. “They force consumers to divert their income from spending on other items to spending on fuels.”
Since energy amounts to only about 3 percent of consumer spending, a cutback in that other 97 percent “causes losses for those who sell autos, restaurants, airlines, resorts and all parts of the economy,” Verleger said.
The federal Energy Information Administration said this month that the US likely reclaimed the title of world’s biggest oil producer earlier this year by surpassing the output of Saudi Arabia in February and Russia over the summer. If the agency’s estimates are correct, it would mark the first time since 1973 that the US has led the oil-pumping pack.