Set to become the next innovation in taxi driving in the coming years is the integration of the smartphone.
Hailo, Toronto’s newest cab company, uses a smartphone application to connect drivers with passengers rather than the standard centralized dispatch centre.
Local taxi driver Rotimi Odunaiya is one of the first to start using the system and he can’t praise it enough.
“It’s beautiful,” says Odunaiya, 47, pointing to the iPhone on his dashboard. “This is going to change the whole industry.”
Hailo isn’t the only company to be providing smartphone technology either. Uber, a San Francisco-based tech company provides a similar program, believing the applications could herald a new dawn for the taxi industry, not only benefitting the cab drivers financially but also making their job more efficient and safe.
What differentiates Uber and Hailo is that former isn’t actually licensed cab company, rather just a smartphone app available to drivers and taxi riders.
The system is simple to use – the program is downloaded like a typical app and a user account is created with a credit card number. To find a ride, you just open the app and tell it to locate the nearest cab. Not only is the driver’s contact details provided but there is also a map showing you exactly where the cab is and how long it will take to reach you.
After the ride is over the fare is then charged automatically to the credit card on the account.
Operations manager with Beck Taxi, Kristine Hubbard, believes the arrival of taxi companies such as Hailo is a positive for the industry and it has forced other established firms to revaluate their own strategies and work on their own apps.
“We can decide to complain about people bringing in new technology — or we can develop our own,” she says.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing though.
In New York app-based cab companies have run into obstacles, namely municipal bylaws which restrict dispatch systems from directly connecting drivers with customers.
Long established taxi associations have also been sceptical and critical of the technology, arguing that passengers have no assurance their drivers are qualified cabbies when companies like Uber are not considered licensed taxi brokers.
Still despite opposition from some sectors, it appears that taxi drivers themselves are enthusiastic and firmly behind the technology. With taxi insurance and fuel prices still on the rise, demand for a system that aids efficiency and puts more money in drivers pockets is only going to become greater.