Program starts field test this month.

Taxis, like convenience stores and toilets, are one of those things that are several times cooler in Japan. Even when they’re not handing out green tea and Kit Kats or pledging to keep the chit-chat to a minimum, Japanese cabs boast rear doors that automatically open and close, spotless interiors, and courteous, white-gloved drivers.

The downside, though, is that pricing can be hard to figure out. Congested and curving streets can make it difficult to estimate how long the meter will be running before you arrive at your destination, and you might be on the hook for additional fees if you called a cab to come pick you up or started your ride after the daily changeover to higher nighttime rates.

But the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Tourism has an idea on how to take some of the guesswork out of traveling by taxi in Japan’s capital. The ministry has announced that from August 7 four taxi operators will allow riders to book cabs and lock in a fare by using the companies’ smartphone apps.

▼ A pre-fixed fare of 3,140 yen for an expected 40-minute ride

The participating operators are Japan Taxi (part of Nihon Kotsu Group), Motaku (part of Daiichi Kotsu Sangyo Group), Daiwa Motor, and km Taxi, whose apps can be found on the Apple App Store and Google Play (Japan Taxi and Motaku’s apps have English-language support). After selecting your starting point (anyplace within Tokyo’s 23 central wards or the neighboring cities of Musashino and Mitaka is OK) and destination, the app computes the expected fare. Accepting the fare finalizes the price, meaning you won’t pay a yen more than what you were quoted regardless of any traffic jams or other delays you might encounter along the way (although the pre-computed price does account for a certain amount of traffic).

The test period for the program is scheduled to run until October 6, and if the response is positive enough there’s a chance of it becoming a regular part of the participating companies’ services or being adopted by other operators. There is a bit of a catch, in that the pre-fixed prices are only available for rides costing 3,000 yen (US$27) or more, but if you’re travelling as part of a group and want to know whether splitting a cab is going to be cheaper than buying a bunch of train tickets, or simply don’t like the idea of being at the mercy of the meter when taking a cab in Tokyo, the program is a great way to keep track of your transportation budget.

Source: Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Tourism via IT Media
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Tourism