Are taxi booking apps on death's bed? The troubles of the taxi industry
A lot of noise is being made about taxi and car service booking apps. The saying is that hindsight is 20/20 and thanks to the rapid pace of technology we can already look back at some business models and review them after just four quarters. The app market is on death's bed. Well maybe that's too strong of a statement but maybe not.
It was just a short few years ago when the advent of the iPhone created the market for apps. As we move closer to every phone being a smart phone we see an app for just about everything. There are apps for controlling the locks on the front door of your home, you can start your car from overseas, you can monitor your travel itinerary and you can hail a taxi. It's the last one that we're most interested in so let's just focus on that. What does it mean that I can hail a taxi with my app? Once upon a time taxis could only be had by either hailing them or by locating a taxi stand. When the telephone was invented it became the new way to summon a taxi in many cities. Phones were set up at taxi stands and taxi drivers would answer the phone and then go pick up the fare. Soon after that radio technology became available to taxi companies and the radio dispatched taxi became all the rage. The consumer would call a dispatch center and a taxi would be summoned by the dispatcher. It appears that this model is still in place decades later but in reality it has greatly evolved. At major fleets the number of phone operators has either been limited or they've been replaced by data dispatch systems and interactive voice response systems (IVR). Typically a caller dials an advertised phone number, they are placed into a phone queue and then either a live person answers or an IVR system answers. Once the order is placed it is usually being offered to a taxi within seconds via a GPS or zone based dispatch solution. If there are no empty cabs within a reasonable distance the order becomes a "trouble" order and a dispatcher will usually intervene. Every cab company seems to have their own way of dealing with that latter problem. Customers have two issues with this type of system, waiting on hold and then not getting a cab in a timely manner, if ever.