Friday, January 28, 2011

Cabulous and Open Taxi Access

John Wolpert (photo) and Don Carmel of Upstart Mobile Corporation gave a presentation on Cabulous and Open Taxi Access at the Jan 24th Taxi Advisory Council. Simply put, their goal is to give open access to every taxi driver and fleet in the City.

Although most drivers are somewhat familiar with Cabulous, Upstart Mobile's plan goes beyond smart phones to include:
  • PSAs (Not to be confused with PSAS.)
  • City web sites
  • Hospitals, public facilities, smaller hotels etc.
The app can be used either by individual drivers or by taxi fleets.

Open Taxi Access (OTA) is also called "Cabs on a Map" because it shows available taxis located at various points on a map of San Francisco. If a customer wants a taxi, he or she can contact a specific one by smart phone, computer of other online device and send out a call to said cab. Then, the driver can accept or reject the request. If the driver accepts, the customer can watch the taxi on the map as it progresses toward his or her location.

Mr. Wolpert said that this visual aid helps to greatly reduce no-gos. Cabulous also will have a feature that will allow drivers to call and make voice contact with the customers without giving out the drivers' phone numbers - this should also help keep the fare waiting until the cab shows up.

Cabulous has built in protections against illegal drivers hacking into it. Cabulous will only recognize drivers by their A-Card number with a password and they will be linked to the appropriate color scheme. Thus a cab drivers can't take out their own cars and use the system either.

During an e-mail exchange, John wanted to make it "... very clear ... that OTA is not anything remotely similar to centralized dispatch. Centralized dispatch means one dispatch operation takes over and removes control from fleets and drivers. OTA leaves control in the hands of fleets and drivers but gives them a simple way to work together on certain websites.

Wolpert added that using "technical openness actually (maybe ironically) results in" fewer no-gos. "Because we run 'openly' across all fleets platforms, our system can know when two or more separate fleets are being" contacted "from the same location, phone number or address with the system.

I think the advantages of Cabulous and Open Taxi Access should be obvious to veteran drivers:
  • Customers in outlying areas should have even more taxis to choose from than the 3 or 4 cab companies they usually call - and with a much greater chance of having one show up.
  • Non "radio playing" drivers might start taking orders when they find that they don't have to be lonely in the Sunset thus giving the city better coverage.
  • And of course drivers in these outlying areas should find themselves getting many more rides out there than they do now since dispatched orders would be available to drivers from all companies instead of just a few.
  • Etc.
The no-gos caused by people using "dumb" phones to call several companies won't disappear nor will people stop stepping outside to flag taxis but both of these activities should be greatly reduced if the system is implemented.

Green Cab and Citywide dispatch are already using Cabulous as of course are numerous individuals. Wolpert says that drivers using the app are averaging five to ten extra rides a week.

You can check out Cabulous and Upstar Mobile at htttp://


  1. This is going to be awesome..Thanks for sharing the info..

    H Mackinder

  2. "... dispatched order will be available to drivers from all companies instead of just a few."

    The way I remember what John Wolpert said was that your above quote would be true, but only if all companies elected to participate. For example, Yellow, Luxor, and De Soto could all choose not to allow their cabs to be on the grid. They haven't actually said they wouldn't allow it. But If that were to happen, then no Yellow, Luxor, or De Soto cab driver could use the system.

    Currently, any cab driver can buy Cabulous equipment and use it. But once Wolpert's plans were to be subsidized by the City and integrated into the industry's system, then cab drivers could only use it if their companies allowed it. If their companies didn't allow it, drivers could only use their company dispatch, and would be prevented from using Cabulous, Taxi Magic, or others. Also, if the three largest cab companies decided not to allow their cabs to be on the grid, then the public would not be able to access that bulk of the City's fleet using this system.

    The current proposal does not require companies to log on to this system, so the decision would be up to the companies, not the drivers.. and not passengers.