Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Electronic Taxi Access
Of course such a system was really impossible thirty years ago because the technology for it didn't exist. And, while said technology has existed for the last five years or so (Remember Open Taxi Access?), the political landscape was not ready for such a venture. To spell this out in plain English - the good ol' corrupt boys' network kept it from happening.
But, thanks to Hayshi's persistence in overcoming hurdles (including the MTA Board's indifference, opposition from Luxor and Yellow cab companies, mindless personal attacks, cab driver paranoia and the Byzantine weirdness of the MTA) the idea is about to come to fruition as Electronic Taxi Access (ETA).
Under ETA, all apps would be required to show all the available cabs in San Francisco thus allowing the customers to choose the closest taxis on their smart phone apps. The benefits of this have been immediately obvious to every customer I've discussed the subject with but I'll spell them out anyway.
The customers will no longer have to guess which company (or companies) to call or hail because they will able to know what cabs are nearest to them. The taxis will be color coded by company so the customers can also select companies that they prefer. Coupled with pre-tipping or similar perks this should pretty much insure that the customers will get a ride in the shortest possible time.
The drivers will get the similar benefits. A Desoto driver will no longer have to go back downtown empty from the Richmond or the Sunset because a customer one block away from him or her called a Luxor and visa versa.
The balkanization of the cab industry into competing dispatching fiefdoms is one major reason that Uber et al have had such an easy time taking away our business. Drivers have been reticent to go into the neighborhoods because they have been afraid of no-goes caused by customers calling several taxi companies at once.
Electronic Taxi Access will help make us competitive again while improving service to the neighborhoods.
President Hansu Kim of Desoto Cab, on the other hand, is concerned that his company might lose its distinct brand with this system. While he agrees that all electronic hailing should be linked, Desoto is developing an app of its own which he thinks will give the public better service than anybody else in the business. He does not think that his app should be required to show taxis from cab companies that have invested nothing to improve service.
I wonder if this is as serious problem as he thinks it is? The color coding should distinguish Desoto from the other companies and, if his drivers continue to give superior service, customers will select them over the opposition and they should continue to make more money and want to stay with Desoto. If his app is really good customers will go to it to choose his cabs first. In addition, Desoto drivers will have the benefit of getting rides from other apps.
A Request for Information was put out a few months ago and the bid to create ETA was won by Frias Transportation Infrastructure (FTI) of Las Vegas. FTI was chosen over CMT, Digital Dispatch, Electronic Connect, Flywheel and Veriphone.