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Tokachi Bus and Via launch AI-based, shared transport service in Obhiro City, Japan 

May 10, 2022 (OZORO, JAPAN) — On May 9, Tokachi Bus will launch “Ozoliner,” a new AI-based, shared ride service in Obhiro City to expand access to efficient, sustainable, and innovative transportation for residents and visitors. For the first time, passengers in Obihiro City’s Ozoro neighborhood will enjoy the convenience of booking an on-demand or pre-scheduled shared ride through a smartphone app. 

Ozoliner’s goal is to provide a convenient mobility option to allow the area’s aging population to remain independent and mobile. The service will be powered by Via, the global leader in TransitTech. Via’s intelligent algorithms will match passengers headed in the same direction to create quick shared trips, without detours or fixed schedules. In addition to being convenient and sustainable, Ozoliner’s shared ride model will also encourage conversation between passengers and foster community-building. The public service launch comes after a successful beta launch on April 6. 

Tokachi Bus and Via believe that Ozoliner will create a successful blueprint for public, on-demand, shared transportation in Japan that can be reproduced across the country to solve historic gaps in transportation access, meet national sustainability goals, and improve travel for the aging population. Ozoliner is supported by funding from Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism as part of a Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) research project. 

“The introduction of Ozoliner, which uses Via’s AI-powered, on-demand transport software, will make the Ozora region a true leader in convenient, community-building mobility,” said Bungo Nomura, President and CEO of Tokachi Bus. “Ozoliner is positioned as an important "True Lifestyle MaaS" initiative that is responsible for the first mile in areas with a declining population. In addition to ensuring the convenience of transportation for daily life, we believe that Ozoliner can contribute to population growth in Japan by creating a community where local residents can deepen their bonds with one another through shared mobility and live a convenient, independent lifestyle.” 

“Via is thrilled to partner with Tokachi Bus to use our AI to bring sustainable, efficient mobility to the Ozora area with the launch of Ozoliner,” said Via’s Shinobu Kato, Partnerships Principal at Via. “Ozoliner’s on-demand and pre-booked rides will bring convenience and comfort to the area’s aging population, and the shared ride model will create conversation and community between passengers. We look forward to seeing how Tokachi Bus’s leadership will inspire more communities in Japan.” 

An early rider of Ozoliner shared their experience: "I used to use phone booking before, but using the rider app made it much more convenient. Looking at the app and seeing the vehicle approaching is fun for me."

Service design details 

  • Service hours: Every day from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Service zone: Within the main zone of Ozora, door-to-door rides can be booked to accommodate senior citizens. Within the additional three zones, the new Ozoliner will use existing Tokachi bus stops, which are conveniently located nearby major points of interest (e.g. hospitals, shopping areas, etc.). 
  • Booking: Passengers can download the Ozoliner (おおぞライナー) app to book a pre-scheduled or on-demand ride. Passengers who are unfamiliar with smartphones can also call 0155-66-6690 to request a ride.