The Australian Taxi Drivers Association is building its own smartphone app to handle bookings and payments after finding existing providers unable or unwilling to meet its demands.
Association president Michael Jools told Business Insider Australia that the app had taken a “couple of years” to build and would launch on July 1.
“The person behind the wheel probably knows best,” he said of what was needed from a taxi booking system.
“We’ve given [taxi network operators] suggestions and hints, but they are not interested in talking to taxi drivers.”
Australian smartphone users currently have their pick of taxi booking applications from traditional network operators like Sydney’s ABC Taxis, Silver Service and Brisbane’s Yellow Cabs, and newer, digital competitors like goCatch and Uber.
According to Jools, existing systems typically assign jobs to drivers within a particular area and present customers with an “instant booking”. But that leaves other drivers blind to any unusual demand.
An event at Sydney Olympic Park, for example, could generate more bookings in the Homebush area but taxi drivers in other parts of the city wouldn’t be able to respond to that demand without knowing about it, leading to longer waits for customers and loss of business for drivers.
The Australian Taxi Drivers Association’s app aims to improve driver efficiency by broadcasting all available jobs to all drivers, so “all drivers know what’s happening in advance”.
Taxi drivers typically spend about half their driving time without a passenger, Jools said, so any additional information that could help them identify hot spots could help cut fuel costs and improve productivity.
From a payments perspective, the app will also try to boost revenues by introducing an extra step that prompts customers to nominate a 5, 10 or 15 per cent tip.
Electronic payments systems in Australia don’t typically let drivers ask for tips, and their growing popularity has wiped 5 per cent off taxi driver revenues at a time of rising costs.
Jools said the association’s developers were currently working out how best to display tips on a receipt so corporate passengers wouldn’t have to worry about how a tip might look on their expense claims.