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Smartphone taxi apps offer an instant pick-me-up


The Canadian Press Posted: Sep 26, 2012

The newest additions to Toronto’s taxi industry put cabs at passengers’ fingertips — literally.

Hailo is one of two smartphone apps to hit Toronto within the past month that directly connects taxi drivers and passengers.

Canada’s first licensed app-based taxi company, Hailo allows passengers to hail, track and pay for cabs directly from their smartphone without having to make a call.

Customers are charged city-approved taxi rates which are billed through a credit card linked to a user’s account.

Hailo launched Wednesday, joining the ranks of Uber, a similar service that began operating in Toronto in late August.

When users press a button to hail a cab, Hailo sends a notification to the nearest taxi on the system.

“We’re the evolution of the hail,” said Jay Bregman, CEO of Hailo and one of six co-founders who started Hailo in London, England, last year.

‘You know who’s going to pick you up’
The app also shows the customer the taxi’s location on a map, its estimated time of arrival and information about the driver.

“You know who’s going to pick you up,”
said Louis Seta, a cab driver of 30 years who now works with Hailo. “You have his name, you have his phone number, you have a picture of the driver.”

The system also allows drivers to pick up more fares, which reduces waiting or looking for passengers, said Seta. Nearly 400 drivers have already signed up to use the service, including Mohamad Nadir, who no longer uses a dispatch radio to find fares.

“There are so many companies and so much competition,” said Nadir. “Many of the other companies aren’t fair. I find this one easy and flexible.”

Another 1,200 drivers are in the process of joining Hailo’s system, a procedure that involves training on how to use the app and licence verifications.

Emma Brooks, one of Hailo’s early customers, said she appreciates the real-time tracking and not having to make a call to hail a taxi.

“When I’m taking a cab at night, it makes me feel safer to [be able to have] a female cabbie too,” said Brooks.

Though Hailo is the country’s first licensed app-based cab company, Uber provides a comparable app in Toronto and roughly 20 other cities worldwide.

Hailo’s launch, however, has shed light on the fact that Uber is currently unlicensed in Toronto.

“Uber does not have a business licence and has not applied for a business licence in Toronto,” said Bruce Robertson, the city’s director of licensing services. “We are proceeding with enforcement action against the company.”

Uber, however, contends that it is a technology company, and said that the drivers using the Uber app are fully licensed and insured.

“We’ve presented our point of view to the city,” said Andrew Macdonald, Uber Toronto’s general manager. “And I think they want to be technology-friendly.”

Taxi regulators say they fielded no Uber complaints
By Mike DeBonis,  Published: SEPT 27 20


The folks at Uber, the regulatorily beleaguered luxury car dispatch service, are wondering why they’ve been subject to so much interference from the the D.C. Taxicab Commission when that body never fielded a formal complaint about Uber during its first seven months in service.
Uber shared with media outlets the reply to a Freedom of Information Act request made by a private citizen requesting a “listing of all public complaints” filed against Uber.

The reply, from a commission attorney: “The D.C. Taxicab Commission (DCTC) has not received any public complaints against Uber Technologies nor against any other taxi and limousine services during the requested timeframe. Please note that public complaints are mainly lodged against individual taxicab and/or limousine drivers, not against taxicab and/or limousine services.”

Uber’s D.C. manager Rachel Holt said that Commission Chairman Ron M. Linton has cited various complaints in the nine months since the commission started raising questions about Uber. The commission ticketed one Uber driver in January in a “sting” of sorts; shortly afterward, Linton acknowledged in an interview with DCist he’d received “tremendous pressure from cab companies [about] the way Uber is functioning.”

That the commission has no recorded complaints, Holt said, “makes it very difficult for us to trust a regulatory body.”

”A number of things have been said that have turned out not to be true,” she added. “Obviously, from our position, it’s disappointing and it’s frustrating.”

Linton said it’s misleading to suggest the commission’s interest was driven by formal complaints. “I said we have received a couple of calls about them,” he said. “Early on, we received several oral complaints before it ever become a public issue.”

No written complaints were ever filed, and Linton said he acted as regulator of for-hire vehicles to figure out whether Uber’s business followed current laws and regulations. That, he said, is what led to the January sting, in which a Virginia-licensed Uber-affiliated driver was ticketed.

“We wanted to see how the system actually worked in practice,” Linton said. “What happened on that ride is that the driver and the vehicle were in violation of regulations.”

Uber, he added, has never gotten a ticket, fine or other sanction from the commission. “The matter is not about complaints,” Linton said. “We’re not raising questions about Uber. The enforcement is on the basis of regulations of drivers and vehicle. There’s no way Uber can get a ticket.”

The D.C. Council is now deciding how to handle proposed regulations for a “sedan class” of for-hire vehicles that would more strictly regulate the sorts of cars Uber dispatches.

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