“I just went online to the Yellow Cab site, typed in where I was, my phone number, and they hooked me up,” said Southerland, a fraud prevention officer for PNC. “They were texting me back and forth, keeping me informed until they got there. Yellow Cab in Indianapolis doesn’t do that.”
Launched in November, online booking offers Yellow Cab customers an alternative to hailing a taxi by phone and includes a texting feature and smartphone app.
In Lexington, Ky., Mr. Taxi uses the California-based digital dispatching system Cabulous, which locates the passenger on GPS and automatically notifies the nearest driver, a significant timesaver.
Mr. Taxi driver Abdul Ennakoa says he recently picked up a fare who had called dispatchers by phone 30 minutes before she needed to leave for a wedding. http://www.mrtaxi.com
“I was there in six minutes,” Ennakoa said. “The Cabulous system recognized I was nearby, I accepted the run, and when I got there the lady stuck her head out of the door — she had curlers in her hair, and said, ‘Can you give me a minute? They told me you’d be here in half an hour.’
“She said I got there quicker than any cab she had ever called.”
Once you had to telephone the cab company, give the dispatcher your location and generally expect at least a half-hour wait. When the cab arrived, you’d tell the the driver where you wanted to go, then pay and tip him or her afterward.
Now taxi companies here and across the country are using digital technology not only to enable passengers like holiday revelers or air travelers to book the nearest cab but also to pay their fares with a few keystrokes on a smartphone.
“We’d been looking for a more effective dispatch system ... and found Cabulous,” said Mr. Taxi spokeswoman Michelle Sjogren. “In the old system, you call in and dispatchers put out a call to all drivers. With our new system, each driver has a tablet with GPS, and the system automatically notifies the driver who is closest to the passenger.”
Cabulous runs on iPhone 3G and 3GS (soon also on Android), and the free downloadable app is connected to a Web-based GPS dispatch system with in-car technology for taxi fleets.
Passengers just log in, either press the “Hail Nearest Cab” button or click on any cab seen driving on the map, and hit “Hail Cab.” Drivers have two minutes to respond and can even talk to fares on the phone.
Lance Daggs, operations manager for a Lexington hotel, regularly books Mr. Taxi on Cabulous.
He says downloading the free app to his phone was quick and simple, and it even allows him to select the driver he wants.
“I’m aware I can get the closest cab, but there are a few drivers I prefer to have over others,” said Daggs.
Taxi Magic, a Virginia-based Internet text-booking service, operates in cities across the country, though not yet in Kentucky in Indiana. It recently snared an exclusive alcoholic beverage sponsorship from Heineken USA.
“As consumers continue to spend more time online and on their phone, we felt it was important to bring our longstanding commitment to responsibility to the mobile lifestyle,” read Heineken’s announcement.
“It’s amazing how many vendors are moving toward this innovation, whether it’s online booking, smartphone booking or just making taxis more convenient,”
“These programs are very customer-friendly,”
She said the system also helps when fares leave items in a cab, because the company can easily locate trip records to help find the property.
Yellow Cab also lets smartphone customers hail cabs with a QR code scan, which accounts for about a fifth of its online bookings.
And while its system isn’t yet on GPS, Yellow Cab has its own custom-designed version of Taxi Magic, the text-booking service.
“Most of our cabs have GPS, and one thing we’re working toward is to make all our runs GPS-dispatched,”
“But Yellow Cab of Louisville now has the highest-tech cab booking website we know of in this region.”