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Kakao Mobility eyes overseas expansion

Kakao Mobility CEO Ryu Geung-sun speaks during an online press conference Thursday at Pangyo headquarters in Gyeonggi Province. (Kakao Mobility)
Kakao Mobility CEO Ryu Geung-sun speaks during an online press conference Thursday at Pangyo headquarters in Gyeonggi Province. (Kakao Mobility)

Kakao Mobility, the country’s leading taxi-hailing service operator, said Thursday it will expand its domestic-focused business, with its next-generation mobility technology and user-friendly service.

“This year will be the starting point of Kakao Mobility to enter the global market, as we move ‘Beyond Korea,’” said Kakao Mobility CEO Ryu Geung-sun in an online press conference.

Ryu said the company will expand its taxi-hailing service -- currently available in several countries including Japan and Vietnam -- to over 120 countries.

Users will be able to order a taxi in the US or Hong Kong on the Kakao T app and make payment with a preregistered debit or credit card.

For international users traveling in Korea, the company plans to launch an English-version mobility app.

Aside from the taxi business, Kakao Mobility will target overseas markets by investing in global mobility companies and creating synergy with its mobility technology.

“There are a handful of mobility platforms that have entered the global market -- for instance, Socar in Malaysia, and Tada and Tmap in Vietnam. But their business is limited to taxi-hailing service,” Ryu said.

Unlike other platforms, Kakao Mobility runs a full stack of mobility business, ranging from making maps to designing a road network, providing a routing engine and connecting drivers and users, Ryu added.

The company also operates a transportation management system based on cloud computing technology that supports efficient data management and storage in logistics, which allows more room for forging a partnership with global companies, according to Ryu.

Kakao Mobility will accelerate its future mobility business -- autonomous driving, high-definition mapping and urban air mobility -- as well.

The company looks to use HD mapping in autonomous driving and other location-based services, creating a digital twin infrastructure that accurately carries people and transport items.

Ryu said Kakao Mobility is taking innovative steps in developing a control platform for a self-driving delivery robot, citing its latest partnership with Neubility, a robotics startup.

Ryu said that they plan to solve problems of mismatching taxi drivers and passengers by improving the Kakao T app. Artificial intelligence helps connect with drivers who frequently accept calls, and if it fails, the app calls drivers with the quickest estimated time of arrival.

Facing criticism that Kakao Mobility is taking large commission fees from Kakao T drivers, the company said it will pump in some 50 billion won ($41 million) to improve their working conditions.

The fund will give additional incentives to taxi drivers who have been suffering income loss due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ryu said Kakao Mobility also plans to commit to other corporate responsibility efforts.

With hopes to contribute to the country’s carbon neutrality pledge, the company will accelerate green mobility by creating a platform for electric vehicle owners and will promote EV taxis.

“By this year, we plan to increase the number of EV taxis to 10,000,” said Ryu, citing that one EV taxi reduces 10 tons of carbon annually.

In addition, two outside committees will oversee Kakao Mobility’s sustainability efforts and the credibility of taxi hailing algorithms, respectively.

Founded in 2015, Kakao Mobility provides navigation, taxi-hailing and bicycle-lending services.

By Byun Hye-jin (