Archives for October, 2013

Hailing a Cab in SLC, there’s an app for that

nextaxi,taxi,apps,smart phones,Salt Lake City,transport,secure,safe,gps,technology,iPhone,android 

Typically, this is how it goes down: You call a taxi company, order a taxi and get an approximate time of arrival. Everything seems fine, until 20 minutes pass and you realize you’re 5 minutes late to wherever you’re supposed to be. When the taxi arrives, you bustle in hoping the driver puts the pedal to the metal. When you arrive—due to the gratuities, service fees, etc.—you’re not sure how much you owe. But you made it . . . right?

NexTaxi wipes all those bad taxi memories away. Universal TranWare principles Steven Juliver and Earl Epstein’s app has been on the market for six months, and is available on both Android and iPhone and services about 50 cities across the US and Canada. Salt Lake City is one of those cities you can use it in.

With the app, you can order a cab and watch the car, the driver and the location info on your screen. Just type in an address or pinpoint yourself on a map for the taxi to find you. The app will only send drivers from legitimate, approved taxi fleets and will never send an “indie” or off-duty driver. No fees or minimum gratuities, and you can pay over the app, so keep your cash.

In SLC, the NexTaxi works with Ute Cab. If you don’t know where you are, the app will find you. The app uses GPS integrated Transware technology—already installed in Ute Cab taxis—to find a passenger’s location around the Salt Lake Valley.

For more info, visit nextaxi.com.

E-hail taxi app and service picks up riders in Utah

 

Mobile » NexTaxi app can hail a cab quicker than calling a dispatcher.

Whenever Mike Evans goes drinking with his buddies on the weekend, he’s smart enough to call a taxi to drive them around. Sometimes, that could be a little tough.

It could take 45 minutes for Evans, a 42-year-old police officer from South Salt Lake, to get a cab on a weekend night because the dispatch is so busy with calls.

Now, it only takes five minutes for the ride to come. Evans says a new mobile app called NexTaxi exclusively for the Ute Cab Company makes hailing a taxi much faster.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Michael Norvell, a dispatch manager at Ute Cab in Salt Lake City shows off a relatively new mobile app called nextaxi that the company has been using for its customers to hail a cab, track it and pay for the ride through the app.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Michael Norvell, a dispatch manager at Ute Cab in Salt Lake City shows off a relatively new mobile app called nextaxi that the company has been using for its customers to hail a cab, track it and pay for the ride through the app.

 

“I just think it’s much more convenient than having to wait in line on the phone,” he said. “That NexTaxi app uses GPS to track the closest cab. The most I’ve waited for a cab with that app is five minutes.”

NexTaxi, which is made by a Tucson company called Universal TranWare, is the first e-hailing taxi service to arrive in Utah, following on the popularity of other services such as Uber and Hailo.

Like those apps, a customer in need of a ride can use NexTaxi to send a message to the Ute Cab’s electronic dispatch system to hail the closest available taxi. The app is available for both the iPhone and Android phone via the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store, respectively.

The app uses the GPS locator in the customer’s phone, so it can instantly locate the rider and send that information to the dispatch system. The rider can send the address of where he or she wants to go or by calling up addresses from their phone’s contacts list or a point of interest on the map, such as a shopping mall. Then a signal is sent to the nearest available cab, and the driver knows immediately where to pick up the rider and the rider’s destination. There is no need to call the dispatch office.

And when the ride is over, the customer can pay the driver through the app and even add a tip ­— with no paperwork for the driver.

The NexTaxi app is tied in to Universal TranWare’s electronic taxi dispatch system, which Ute Cab Company has used for more than two years. Drivers use an Android tablet to record each ride, and the cars have GPS locators so customers using NexTaxi can see where their cab is before it arrives. All of Ute Cab’s 75 cars, which cover Salt Lake County, are connected to the computerized dispatch sytem and NexTaxi.

“It saves paperwork, which means it saves time,” NexTaxi CTO and founder Earl Epstein said. “Every ride counts in the day, and that’s the big advantage for the driver. Time is money.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Michael Norvell, a dispatch manager at Ute Cab in Salt Lake City shows off the tablets they have been using with their drivers that alerts them when a customer has hailed a cab with the mobile app nextaxi. The relatively new app allows customers to hail a cab, track it and pay for the ride through the app.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Michael Norvell, a dispatch manager at Ute Cab in Salt Lake City shows off the tablets they have been using with their drivers that alerts them when a customer has hailed a cab with the mobile app nextaxi. The relatively new app allows customers to hail a cab, track it and pay for the ride through the app.

One app feature lets customers to leave special instructions for the driver to, for example, not ring the doorbell or to help the rider into the car. And there’s a button to stop the cab after it’s dropped passengers off in case they left something in the car.

The app also can save favorite locations that a rider visits often, as well as a list of recent trips.

“We’ve had a 100 percent success rate [with the app],” Ute Cab Dispatch Manager Mike Norvell said. “Every passenger that uses it continue to use it. They are only using the app so they aren’t tied up with the telephone and the dispatcher.”

He said a small number of people have begun using the app since Ute Cab adopted it this summer, but “it will grow in popularity.”

“Every single passenger that I have talked to has absolutely loved it,” Norvell added. “We’re super happy and excited about how this is going to turn out.”

Unlike the growing taxi service Uber, which uses a new fleet of black luxury vehicles, NexTaxi has implemented it in a cab company’s existing fleet so there are no added fees over the usual cab fare. And NexTaxi doesn’t have to jump through a city’s regulatory hoops to start a new fleet of taxis there, Epstein said.

So far, NexTaxi is deployed in about 50 U.S. markets including Chicago; Austin, Texas; and Tampa, Fla.

Uber ran into regulatory problems in New York City during its test phase earlier this year. Last spring, the Livery Roundtable and the Black Car Assistance Corporation filed for a temporary restraining order to stop services like Uber, claiming it was akin to pre-arranged yellow cab rides, which are outlawed by the city. A judge later dismissed the order.

 

vince@sltrib.com

Twitter: @ohmytech

Omaha cab fleets join e-hailing trend

 

Taxi Driver using Universal Tranware technology

E-hailing — or hailing a taxi via your smartphone — has arrived in Omaha.

NexTaxi, an app made by Universal Tranware, has been implemented in several Omaha cab fleets, including those of Happy Cab, Checker Cab, Yellow Cab, Cornhusker Cabs and Safeway Cabs, all of which are owned or managed by Mark Mitchell.

The free app, available for Apple and Android devices, allows users to request a cab, track it until it arrives and pay, all via one’s smartphone. Other features: The app shows users their route while in the cab, making it obvious when a cabdriver is deviating from the route, and it tells users the cab number and driver in the event that the rider forgets something in the cab.

E-hailing has taken off in larger cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco with smartphone apps such as Uber and Hailo, which connect users with a town car or a taxi near them, and allow them to pay and, in Uber’s case, rate drivers. However, those services have been slow to move into smaller markets where cabs are not an everyday necessity.

“The idea is not radical but it’s pretty new,” NexTaxi co-founder Earl Esptein said. “Five years ago, people didn’t think of their smartphone as much more than a way to surf the Web and make phone calls, and now people expect it to do everything.”

Instead of going directly to drivers, NexTaxi implements its app into entire existing fleets, ensuring a safe, on-duty driver that must follow specific regulations outlined by the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

“There’s a safety component there we think is very important,” Epstein said. With driver-targeted apps, any off-duty town car, limousine or taxi driver can pick someone up — even drivers who have been working for the past 15 hours.

Many other apps also charge extra during peak traffic times or charge more for multiple riders or for canceling a cab, but NexTaxi is free when users enter the promotional code “TAXI” when registering.

NexTaxi is available in large markets like Orlando, Fla., Chicago and Manhattan, as well as smaller cities like Omaha, Lincoln, Council Bluffs and Iowa City. The app was created by Tucson, Ariz.-based Universal Tranware, which has been in the taxi software business for about 20 years.

The app has been available in Omaha and Lincoln for about two months, and Happy Cab information technology director Jeremy Eickman said more than 20 cabs are hailed via the app on a typical weekend night, although it varies depending on local events and the weather. Cabs are used more frequently in the winter, he said.

Typical users so far are age 20 to 30 on the weekends, he said.

Trent Allen, 26, of Lincoln said he has used e-hailing apps Uber, Sidecar and Lyft while traveling in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. Allen said one of the most valuable features is being able to use his smartphone to pay for the cab fare because it’s not always clear whether cabs accept credit cards or cash only.

One drawback of implementing the app into existing cab fleets, he said, is that there will still be a shortage of cabs on busy nights, like during the College World Series or on New Year’s Eve.

However, Allen said he would be open to using NexTaxi. “I would say that’s a really good start. That has the features I’d want, anyway,” he said.

Drivers like the service as well, Eickman said. It allows them to limit the number of failed pickups — where the driver and the person who called the cab just can’t seem to find each other — because the rider can always see the taxi’s location in the app. If riders want to cancel their cab, they can do that, too, via the app before the driver arrives and has already lost money and time.

And the service is also paperless, which limits the amount of time a cabdriver might spend handling cash or doing paperwork.

Epstein said that Lincoln and Omaha were good candidates for the service because of the large populations of college students in both cities, but the company is hoping to get into as many markets as possible as quickly as possible.

Eickman said he and Epstein are working on a Web-based version of the app for people to use on computers to capture people who may not be comfortable using a smartphone. Eickman said Happy Cab has also reached out to hotels in Omaha that might be interested in using that version to request cabs for their customers.

“We wouldn’t say no to somebody from a small town or somewhere that’s not high-profile,” Epstein said. “We’re very excited to be in the markets that have regular people.”