Hail a cab with a tap of your smart phone

Israel’s GetTaxi mobile phone application puts an end to running down the street with an outstretched arm, and benefits drivers as well. The app lets you hail a cab and get complete driver and trip info. Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex …

Hail a cab with a tap of your smart phone

Israel’s GetTaxi mobile phone application puts an end to running down the street with an outstretched arm, and benefits drivers as well.

GetTaxi app
The app lets you hail a cab and get complete driver and trip info.

Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex and the City” showed us how strategic one must be when grabbing a taxicab. It’s not only a cutthroat business where people jump around each other to get the first cab: you can get splashed on, taken for a scenic ride if you aren’t a local, or worse, wait forever until a cab comes your way. Not to mention the occasional crime against rider or driver.

A new Israeli app rolling out in Israel, London and then Paris, Berlin, Moscow and beyond points the way for changing the century-old tradition of hailing a cab with your hand or reserving by phone call and standing around waiting.

The company GetTaxi has developed an application that can be downloaded to your mobile phone. Tap on the screen, and the request is delivered to a call center. Like watching Pac-man travel around the computer screen munching on ghosts, you can watch in real-time as your taxi approaches where you are waiting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3U6feLuzWYk

Simultaneously, users receive information about their driver, including picture, name, license number and ratings by other GetTaxi users.

Nimrod May, VP of marketing, says it was a matter of applying today’s technology to daily activities and old economics. “We tapped into an industry that hasn’t changed since it was established more than 100 years ago,” he points out.

“The main unique selling propositions,” he tells ISRAEL21c, “are based on the following: For the end consumer, the private passenger, it’s a simple click for a taxi. This is saving time spent on the street. The second advantage is that he gets full control over his ride.”

Advantages for drivers and fares

Allowing users to share their experiences and favorite drivers with their friends, as well as game elements (beat your friends to an event?) are also planned for the application. Like frequent-flyer programs, mileage points and rewards are also part of the fun for users.

Coordinated with taxi drivers, who install a simple-to-use module in their cabs, the GetTaxi app doesn’t only work for travelers. It provides safety for drivers, too — not only in assuring they will collect the fare, which can be paid for through the system, but also in protecting them from assault better than a plastic partition can.

Just as the riders get information about their drivers, the drivers can also track and trace their fares — expected to be a big selling point for its added safety and security.

Nimrod May
GetTaxi’s Nimrod May.

The dispatch can communicate between drivers so they are assigned fares based on proximity, not on favoritism principles often employed by dispatch stations.

And, “since we create a bond between passenger and driver,” May says, “we reduce the drop-off rate,” which is the percentage of times people don’t stick around waiting for their cab to come, and jump in another that rolls by instead.

He estimates that rate to be about 30 percent. “It happens a lot,” says May. “But we are creating a bond that can decrease the known drop-off rate.”

Rolling out in Europe this year

The GetTaxi revenue model is based on three major channels: Drivers will pay a monthly dispatch fee to use the GetTaxi service — in Europe, an average of three euros per day. They currently pay about five times that amount for traditional dispatch services. The drivers can choose to do both or to disconnect from traditional dispatchers.

Second, the company will charge fees for corporate rides, marking up the rate per ride, and providing a monthly accounting sum-up of all rides.

Third, by offering a credit-card payment option through the app, the company will take a percentage for use of this service.

The business model includes adding a service fee to companies using the GetTaxi application for ordering cabs for their staff and clients.

May says: “For corporate, the fact is that we will give them full control over office rides. We’ll have a dedicated portal for them to order taxis, where every ride is being recorded and there is easy end-of-the-month accounting and payment, which they can choose to pay through credit card or cash.”

Based in Ramat Hiyall, GetTaxi currently employs 16 people, and its sign can already be seen on more than a dozen cabs circling Tel Aviv. The company is now launching in London and will hire 15 people to manage operations there. Similar rollouts are expected in major European cities throughout the summer and into next year, based on market research pointing to the market potential.

While Carrie Bradshaw will have to order her cab the old-fashioned way for a while yet, GetTaxi plans on setting up business in the United States in the future. A $10 million financing from a private, undisclosed investor has given the founders a boost toward this goal.

About Karin Kloosterman

Karin Kloosterman lives in Jaffa, Israel. She is a journalist, writer and blogger who focuses on the environment and clean technology from Israel and the Middle East. Published in hundreds of newspapers around the world, Karin also writes for the Huffington Post and Green Prophet.