Despite a population of more than 20 million people and aspiring to be a great international metropolis, China is currently still only served by 66,000 taxis – no different to what it was like 10 years ago. Futhermore, according to a document released by the city’s transportation commission recently, the amount of taxis isn’t going to change in the foreseeable future.
Despite it being heavily publicised in the media that local residents in Beijing are struggling to find taxis, the supply of taxis is being maintained at the current level. But a sure-fire sign that the current taxi-fleet aren’t matching the demand for transportation services is the suggestion that approximately 100,000 illegal “black cabs” are operating in the city.
Rental companies and new start-ups are now incorporating the state-of-the-art telecommunications technology to take advantage with the demand showing no sign of abating.
Whilst taxi services in many major cities in the world are now welcoming smartphone technology, rental companies in Beijing are taking this one stage further – “Yaoyao Zhao Che”, roughly translated as “Shake Shake Find Car” is a new service that allows customers to hail cabs with a simple shake of their phone. By downloading a simple application to their mobile phone, users are able to immediately locate cars willing to take them to their destination. A shake of their phone will then give them the license plate and name of the driver who will then arrive to ferry them to their destination.
The service hasn’t been without teething problems though.
In March this year, Juhe Zhongxin, the company that developed the application, hired 20 cars from a car rental firm as a means of test driving the software. Out of those 20 cars, three were picked up by Beijing authorities for operating illegally and may have not even carried taxi insurance.
The company has now halted the trial, suggesting that many taxi drivers didn’t understand the concept and had been unwilling to work with them. But after testing the system, Wang Weijian, the founder of Juhe Zhongxin, says the company can now present a more developed version of the technology to taxi drivers.
With Juhe Zhongxin aiming to sign-up at least 10,000 drivers by the start of next year, many other car rental companies are also looking to operate within this legal grey area, providing short car hire trips for customers in a country where demand is so high.