Japan set to allow private car transport service in special zones


The government will allow private drivers to use their own cars to provide fee-based transportation services aimed at tourists in special zones, informed sources have said.

Such services will start in areas where no buses or taxis are operating if they are approved as projects to be tested in national strategic special zones, they said Wednesday.

Demand for transportation is growing nationwide, along with a surge in the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan.

The current road transportation law prohibits drivers from using their private cars for profit, describing such vehicles as unlicensed taxis.

But the law currently does permit drivers to provide transportation services in areas lacking scheduled public transportation, and to give local residents lifts for welfare reasons, for a fee.

The government is set to submit a bill during the ongoing ordinary Diet session to revise the law on the national strategic special zone. On Wednesday, a draft bill was approved by the transport division of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council.

Drivers will be limited to those who register their planned services with local governments or nonprofit organizations, while private firms will be excluded, according to the draft. If enacted, the legislation will be implemented within three months of being promulgated.

For the launch of such services, operators will be required to submit service plans and win approval from the transport minister and certification from the prime minister.

The draft also calls for operators to make prior consultations with local governments, operators of bus or taxi services and other groups. The drivers will be limited to those who hold a special license for passenger transportation or have taken a special course certified by the transport minister.

  • GBR48

    So individual Uber-style drivers are going to have to get the stamp of approval personally from the transport minister and the prime minister, whom you would have thought would be too busy for that sort of thing?

    And then they can only operate where there is no other form of public transport (and presumably no tourists, and few locals).

    The lobbyists have been hard at work on this one, in their own sweet way.

    Eventually some bright spark will knock together a distributed version of Uber as an app. Uber without Uber, if you like. And then the chance to properly and fairly regulate it will have gone.

  • igirisjin

    Well the ‘white’ taxis (unregistered) have been running many years from stations around the Yamanote line taking people home from the last train. Doesn’t seem to bother the local police. I guess the new system then is targeted at law abiding citizens as it looks like the yakuza have been exempted for a long time.

    “the law currently does permit drivers to provide transportation services in areas lacking scheduled public transportation”. That is pretty much everywhere in Japan beginning some time between midnight and 1am.