Monday, April 18, 2011

A high-tech way to hail a cab

The Municipal Transportation Agency wants to put the power to find and hail a taxi, then watch to see if it actually shows up, in your smart phone, tablet or computer.

But at least one of the city's biggest taxi companies doesn't like the idea, even though it would get the technology for free.

The agency, which oversees taxi operations in San Francisco, wants to develop a smart phone application featuring a map that would allow someone looking for a cab to see all nearby, and available, taxis on the screen, select one, then watch as it approaches -- or doesn't. Drivers would be also be able to see locations of passengers requesting cabs as well, and see if they remain there or climb into another taxi.

Agency officials say it would make life easier for both passengers, who complain of the difficulty of getting a cab, and taxi drivers, who often drive to a call only to find the customer has taken another cab.

The agency is not ready to seek bidders to develop the system -- which would be available to all taxi companies -- but expects it to cost about $400,000. Funding would come from sales of taxi medallions.

Similar systems, marketed by private firms, already exist. But Sonali Bose, the agency's chief financial officer, said some limit access only to certain taxi companies.

Charles Rathbone, assistant manager of Luxor Cab, said the agency should leave the business of taxi technology to the private sector, and questioned whether the application was an effort by the agency to start managing or dispatching cabs itself.

The agency's Policy and Governance Committee backed the idea of the phone/computer application, but referred it to the Taxi Advisory Committee for further discussion.

Posted By: Michael Cabanatuan (Email) | April 13 2011 at 08:17 AM

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