Photo: Flickr / Creative Commons
THERE IS little doubt that the proliferation of taxi-booking apps is changing how people get around. Hailo, which is already used by more than half of all black-cab drivers in London, is also available in Dublin, Toronto, Boston, and Chicago. The firm, which recently raised $30 million in new capital, has now launched in New York City. Uber, another app, is available in 30 cities and regions, from Amsterdam and Atlanta to Vancouver and Washington, DC.
Uber certainly has changed the cab service in my hometown of Washington, DC. For decades, it was all but impossible to get taxis to go to or from certain parts of the capital city—and harder if you were a minority. Uber, which is based on a smartphone app, changed all that. Uber users fill in their credit-card information and then tell the app where they want to be picked up. Nearby drivers are alerted and one of them will claim the job. The user then gets an estimate of how long it will take for the car to arrive, and can track the driver’s progress on the smartphone app. If the user doesn’t cancel the car request in a few minutes, a deposit is charged to her credit card.
Uber is more expensive than a regular cab, but the cars are cleaner and newer. The drivers are also willing to take you almost anywhere in the city. Uber initially only worked with its own cabs, but the company recently launched a new, cheaper service, called Uber Taxi, for regular taxi rides.
Hailo co-founder Jay Bregman, meanwhile, already has his sights set on the next big thing. The Verge‘s Adrianne Jeffries explains:
[T]here’s something else going on here. Taxi apps give us a glimpse of a future in which everything is real-time—imagine attaching a moving dot on a map to every pizza delivery driver and FedEx package. There are only two examples of success with matching people together for a real-life transaction in real time: taxi apps, and Grindr, the hook-up app for gay men. Only one of those (we hope) involves cash.
Real-time delivery sounds great. But in the meantime, being able to actually get a cab when you need one is good enough. Hurrah for Hailo and Uber, and may the best app win.
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