You wait forever for a taxi app, and then four come along at once

12 Jul 2012

Hailo launches in Dublin

Within the space of a few weeks, Ireland has seen the launch of no less than four apps to improve taxi services, as start-ups, entrepreneurs and established businesses seek to address a need felt by many a stranded traveller.

I remember not too long ago I was in a taxi home and, when the driver found out about my interest in technology, he spent the rest of the journey telling me how much he wished someone would develop an app to help both him and his customers.

“It seems so obvious to me,” he said, “but no one’s doing it.”

But a few months down the line and this taxi driver – and his potential customers – are spoiled for choice, as Hailo, Wini Cabs, Click A Taxi and TaxiFair have come to help us all on our journeys.

Hailo launches in Dublin

There are more than 12,000 taxis in Dublin and this competitive market has seen demand for services fall by 33.4pc between 2008 and 2011 as people seek better value.

Hailo, a taxi app service, is stepping in to help Dublin taxi drivers to get bookings and minimise cash handling on the job. “Our service matches passengers to their taxi and ensures that the fare is paid, so eliminates any potential risks for both the driver and the passenger,” said Colm Ó Cuilleanáin, managing director of Hailo.

Founded by three London cab drivers, Hailo completed a US$17m Series A financing round in March, and this investment is being used to fund the firm’s expansion into Ireland and North America.

Hailo not only lets customers book a taxi via the app, but it also allows them to pay by credit or debit card using their smartphones, emailing a receipt directly to them. Cashless transactions mean drivers don’t have to handle money, and payment is always what’s on the meter, which will help eliminate fare disagreements.

All journeys booked via Hailo are recorded for safety and security reasons. Once a customer books a taxi, the driver’s photo and roof sign are displayed, as well as a call button to contact the driver directly. A real-time countdown indicates when the cab will get there and a notification is sent on arrival.

Hailo also provides additional services for drivers through the Hailo Driver Network, which gives drivers real-time alerts on job bursts and traffic information, and private statistics measuring a driver’s earnings and down-time. Drivers can also chat with each other on the network and manage their recorded fares.

Hailo is free to download and for drivers to subscribe to the network, and it is available through the App Store and Google Play for iOS and Android devices.

New technology from Wini Cabs

Though Hailo is the brand new to Dublin, it’s not alone in providing new technology for taxi services.

Last week, we reported how Irish start-up Wini Cabs is set to transform the taxi industry by combining eCall technology with GPS and new billing methods to ensure greater accuracy, safety and efficiency.

About 1,100 taxi drivers have already signed up to the service, which sends the nearest taxi driver to a customer’s location once they call for a taxi. About 400 vehicles have been fitted with the technology so far, with the company intending to fit out 900 cabs by September.

Wini Cabs has not yet introduced an app for its service, but this is set to launch shortly, allowing users to call for a cab via their smartphones.

…or simply Click A Taxi

But before Wini Cabs we had Click A Taxi, unveiled at the end of last month.

Partnered with taxi companies in the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and now Ireland, this free smartphone app lets users book a taxi from any town or city in these countries, and by summer’s end it will have most of Western Europe covered.

Like Wini Cabs’ eCall technology, Click A Taxi uses GPS to send the nearest available driver to a booking made via the app.

An app that keeps tabs on the TaxiFair

While the above apps service both customers and drivers looking to secure bookings, TaxiFair, developed by Dubliner Kevin Fagan, is looking out for customers who have been taken for a ride.

Inspired by the way his English-born wife would be taken the long way round by taxi drivers who assumed she wouldn’t know better on account of her accent, and by encounters with dodgy meters when travelling abroad, Fagan decided to develop an app that would show users what route they had taken and calculate the correct fare on their behalf.

The app, which currently covers everywhere in Ireland as well as London in the UK, uses GPS, Google Maps and local tariff information in its calculations and Fagan is working to add more cities to the service.

TaxiFair app TaxiFair app

TaxiFair is available for €0.79 from the App Store.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.