The pros and cons of taxi apps

The smartphone is changing the way we do so many things. Now the taxi industry is getting in on the act, with apps that can bring a taxi cruising round the corner at your command.

It’s quite a natural match. Smartphones almost all have GPS location systems on them and internet mapping is now very accurate. Rather than having to call a cab or the cab driver having to rely on driving past a hailing passenger, the apps simply put together someone who wants a taxi and a taxi that’s free – perfect!

The biggest of these aps, Hailo, which was set up by a conglomeration of black cab drivers and internet money men, takes £600,000 a week in London, just one of the nine cities it operates in. That cash is made as a 10% cut on the fares it sets up.

So what are the pros and cons – for drivers and passengers – of this hi-tech hailing system?

Customer Pros

1 – Convenience

Standing in the rain waiting for a taxi is no fun. Especially when it’s just on the off-chance and you’re exhausted, freezing or soaking wet.

A taxi app will produce a cab, ‘as if by magic’, the driver knows where you are and just drives to pick you up.

2 – Discrimination

Some of the most enthusiastic users of taxi apps are wheelchair users who sometimes have a problem getting picked up by passing cabs.

With apps, they can ‘hail’ a cab and be accepted as a fare without having to reveal any disability. It’s a shame that anyone should have to resort to anonymising themselves to get proper service, but it’s a real world win.

3 – Traceability and safety

A number of recent high profile cases have involved rogue taxi drivers assaulting customers, often lone women. In all honesty, lots of us use taxis when we’re not in the best condition, and we are potentially vulnerable in that state. Taxi apps record the transaction with a named driver, everything can be traced, so safety is increased.

4 – Cost and choice

Hailing in the street is a Hobson’s choice and few of us have the time to properly research the taxi market every time we need a ride.

Some taxi apps are now aggregating quotes from a number of companies to give customers the best choice and the best price. Others are branching out to include luxury hire at the touch of a button.

Driver Pros

1 – More business

Taking to the streets looking for a fare is a chancy way to make a living. Taxi drivers in London using Hailo report four or five extra jobs a day as a result of using the ap. In down time, jobs come to the driver.

Customer Cons

1 – Lack of choice

Although more choice is now a feature of some taxi aps, the fact is you are limited to the drivers and companies who have signed up with the ap that you use.

2 – Cost

With the app developers taking a cut of the fare, it’s likely that drivers and taxi companies will want to put up fares as a result – it’s an extra cost that will be passed on to customers. It’s just another way of saving besides cutting insurance costs with online taxi insurance comparison sites such as www.taxitoinsure.co.uk.

Driver Cons

1 – Lack of choice

Taxi driving can be a risky business – especially late at night on Friday and Saturdays. Independence and the choice of who you allow in your cab is one of the great advantages of working as a licensed cab driver. There are potential risks with picking up unseen fares.

It seems likely that taxi apps will only grow in popularity, hopefully in time the pros will increase and the cons vanish.