Taxicab technology is now inextricably linked to mobile.
Regardless of the reality that a growing number of taxis are already equipped with embedded telematics units, this is being overshadowed by the rapid rise in popularity of smartphone-based taxi apps, ABI Research reports.
These apps allow passengers to order a taxi with the driver receiving pick-up requests directly via smartphone.
Most capital cities currently boast a number of smartphone-based taxi-apps. Not all of the apps are the same, however, although the majority operate on a peer-to-peer basis by-passing traditional taxi companies.
“Some such as Hailo work with the independent taxi drivers, but by-pass the taxi companies,” observes Gareth Owen, principal analyst at ABI Research. “Others such as Uber compete against both established taxi drivers and taxi companies, while a third type such as Kabbee offer a smartphone-based price comparison and booking service for established taxi and private hire fleets.”
ABI believes that taxi apps have the potential to “disrupt and transform” the traditionally heavily-regulated taxi market in many major cities around the world forever.
But roadblocks remain.
The taxi companies are fighting back and the industry is planning to make life increasingly more difficult for the app start-up companies. In a number of countries, the regulatory authorities plan to issue guidelines on the use of taxi apps, particularly in relation to driver distraction issues, as well as dealing with problems concerning fare payments via smartphones. In China, where telematics is mandatory in all taxis, the authorities have banned the use of taxi apps in some cities.
“Although it remains to be seen whether these companies will ultimately become profitable, the sheer convenience of these taxi apps means that very few of those who have used them will want to do without them, and so taxis apps are probably here to stay,” Owen concludes.