As the taxi industry longs for and prepares for life after the coronavirus pandemic, many will be looking at how they can operate more efficiently and also test out new technology to give them an edge in what has always been a competitive market.
Technology alongside human knowledge can be a powerful tool. They can work side by side if deployed in the right way with the focus being on service, not profits. Some cab drivers will see Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a threat, but technology has long been harnessed in the trade. From the historic move away from horses to internal combustion engines and now electric... the industry adapts.
How we find our passengers has also changed whilst adapting to consumer habits. Most services can be provided online now and the booking of a taxi is no different. Ride-hailing apps have provided both positive solutions and also worrying scenarios too.
The positives include better efficiency by reducing dead milage and improved coverage in rural and suburban areas. There are of course also concerns too.
The data held on passengers served by cabbies is never owed by the service provider but is stored away by the service facilitator instead. A change in direction by the ‘middle-man’ means the service provider is always the one at risk should the facilitator choose to offer those services via other modes of transport.
There is also a lack of control when it comes to the costs involved in using an app company to find work. Not long-ago taxi drivers were paying 10-12 percent fees on jobs completed on taxi apps. Those fees have increased to 15-20 percent with no guarantee that they won’t rise further.
For any business to work it must have a concrete business plan and when costs can vary rapidly it does impact confidence to invest.
These worries have forced some cabbies in the capital to look for a solution. Several new taxi hailing apps, created by cabbies, have entered the fray with the aim of pushing down costs involved for cab drivers and providing greater access to the passengers they serve. Some of these include:
TAXIAPP: One of the longer standing upstarts on the market. The platform is fully funded and managed by taxi drivers. Cabbies must pay £20 per month to be part of the co-operative, but they pay no further fees on the work they accept there-after.
TAXI-NOW: New on the scene having only released the app to drivers and passengers on 1 December 2020. According to the app’s creators, the platform has been developed with the focus heavily on operating at the lowest possible commission rates for cabbies. The app currently charges drivers just 1% commission on fares generated through the app.
BLACK CAB NOW: A slick looking platform due to launch in Spring. Fees will be set at 10% and the focus will be on the app not just providing work, but also representing the drivers’ interests. The app will be looking to raise funds direct from driver donations and investors to help market the platform to potential customers.
Historically taxi drivers have always found ways to adapt to changing and challenging times. Technology has long played its part in this and when much anticipated work levels finally return at some point in 2021, it will be interesting to see which apps take centre stage and bring the most benefits to drivers.