“The next time you look for a taxi, there is also a taxi looking for you.” Yeah, sure. When I’m looking for a taxi, they all tear off in the opposite direction. But the source of this quote, Federico Esquibel, founder of Smartaxi, assures me that taxi drivers actually are in the business of carrying passengers. He wants to help them find more.
Consumers can of course use a taxi-beckoning system like Taxi Magic (recommended) or fly business with Uber. But most taxi users, in most cities, just head out to the curb and flap their arms around. There’s no app for that.
But there is now — for drivers. The Smartaxi smartphone app reads drivers’ locations and activities in order to build heat maps in cities showing where taxis are picking up (drivers should go there) and where they’re waiting for long periods (which they’ll want to avoid). Algorithms also predict demand.
Taxi dispatchers can push data to the app, but they don’t have to. Many fleet managers, who rent taxis to drivers, couldn’t care less if drivers are busy; they make money regardless. City taxi commissioners, however, do care, and Esquibel hopes they buy Smartaxi. (He adds, “Do you know anybody in New York?”)
When you see technology begin to change the consumer side of a market segment (see also: Lyft, Zimride), look to the supply side as well to see if there’s opportunity there. Business customers will pay for it.
Does New York City Need More Taxis? (Planet Money)
Lyft, SideCar, Zimride fight cease-and-desist orders to stop services (SF Examiner)
Uber: Silicon Valley App-Hailing Startup Takes On NYC Taxi Industry (Time)
Uber Sued By Taxi And Livery Companies In Chicago For Consumer Fraud And More (TechCrunch)
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