Ever had a cab ride where the driver swerved recklessly while yakking away on their cell phone, or sped off when you said you needed a ride to Queens?
There may soon be an app for that.
An app that allows users to rate their cab driver, developed by GetTaxi, was submitted as part of an app contest at the Taxi and Limousine Commission. As part of the contest, which ends Thursday, the TLC asked for proposals for smartphone applications to let taxi riders pay with their phone.
But many of the apps pitched include additional special features, such as the ability to hail a cab from your phone and to rate a driver at the end of a ride.
For example, GetTaxi's app, already in use in London and Moscow, allows users to hail a cab directly from their phone. Both GetTaxi and Taxi Magic, another company submitting a proposal to the TLC, also have a five-star rating system for drivers.
“I think it’s a critical part of the experience that’s missing,” said Jing Wang Herman, CEO of GetTaxi. Herman is a former banker who has a hack license herself. “Everyone loves to rate things and sort of crowd-source reviews. I think for a taxi driver, it’s definitely a form of, hopefully, positive reinforcement.”
Ideally, stellar ratings could allow New Yorkers to select a five-star cabbie; the app enables users to pick a cab to come get them after seeing stars next to a driver’s name.
Right now, the only way to rate a driver – positively or negatively – is through 311, TLC spokesman Seth Melnick told Metro.
While none of these proposed apps have been approved by the TLC, Melnick said the city agency hopes to unroll their chosen app by the early fall.
Even if GetTaxi is not chosen by the TLC, Herman said she hopes to get the app installed to work with livery cars, and plans to launch in New York City sometime this year.
“Either way we’re planning to launch,” she said.
How it works
So, how do you hail a taxi through your smartphone?
A company like GetTaxi would equip all yellow cabs with a driver box, similar to a GPS system, to track their movements and connect them with registered users.
With the app open, a user punches a button to hail a taxi. The cabbies are notified when someone near them has requested a cab, and their location.
Sit back, relax and watch as your yellow cab comes to meet you. You can also track the cab's movement on your phone in real time.
When the ride's done, users can pay with their phone, and rank the cabbie on a five-star system.
GetTaxi users can also hunt down lost property and split the bill.
As part of Taxi Magic, users can also schedule a pick-up for later. Adding a drop-off location will also provide a fare estimate. And they also include a phone-pay system, where users can pay with their credit or debit card.
But cabbies have some cocerns
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the Taxi Workers Alliance, said that she likes the idea of easing the burden on drivers and helping them more swiftly pick up hails – and fares.
“I think anything that will help passengers and drivers connect more easily is a win-win situation,” she said.
But she was wary about the ratings.
“You don’t know what the motivations are, what the context is,” she said. “People hold their reputation and name with dignity, and we’re already so scrutinized in the public life that I think it feels almost like an invasion to have people just randomly talk about you.”