by MJ Mendoza of iPrice Group
Unless you own a car, public transport helps you get from point A to point B. Whether on your way to school, work, or leisure., public transport gets you wherever you want to go. Aside from trains and buses, taxis have been a popular choice of public transport because you get a sense of privacy within the vehicle. Though it can be a little bit more expensive than riding the bus or a train, at least you don’t have to wait for other passengers to get on.
In today’s world, public transport is on a turning point with the popularity of taxi booking apps such as Uber and Grab. Instead of lining up on the taxi pickup point, you can get a personal driver to get you anywhere you want to go around the vicinity with a few simple taps. Convenient, time-saving, and ideal for both the driver and passenger, these methods of hailing a cab sparked much controversy, particularly in Southeast Asia.
Taxis, otherwise known as cabbies or taxicabs have been a part of society and daily living since 1625 in the form of horse-drawn carriages. However, it wasn’t until in 1907 when the term “taxicab” was first used to describe an automobile for hire. The term is a portmanteau of two words “taximeter” and “cabriolet” in which a taximeter means “taxes, or to charge” and cabriolet describes a horse-drawn carriage from France.
For a very long time, taxis have been dispatched and controlled by the taxi fleet’s central office, relying on radio to communicate. Before the invention of mobile phones, passengers can ask for a cab via a cabled telephone within their homes, offices or a callbox which is a special telephone to contact the taxi central office. A dispatcher will then relay the message to available taxis within the vicinity. If a callbox or a cabled phone is not available, you can simply hail a taxi by calling the attention of the driver on the street. Even today, people still rely on calling a cab through a cabled phone.
The popularity of smartphones and handheld technology has changed the way we see public transport in general. The availability of a GPS or Global Positioning System also contributed to this massive shift. Instead of waiting for a cab to pass by or calling through a callbox for a taxi, you can use applications on your smartphone to get in touch with taxi drivers near you. Fast, convenient for both parties, and timesaving, this new perspective of public transport is making a huge impact in today’s society.
The Rise of Taxi Booking Apps
At a rapid rate, technology continuously changes the way we live our lives, even with tasks as small as hailing a cab. Using data connection and your location, you can instantly flag down a taxi nearby; more convenient that waiting for one to pass by. Behind this concept are two of the biggest taxi booking apps – Uber and Grab (Lyft), which are forever changing the way we call a cab.
Within the forefront of this revolution is Uber. Becoming the first to adapt to the idea of booking a taxi with your smartphone in 2009, the trend quickly went on and many app developers followed suit, calling this business model “Uberification”. Three years behind Uber is Southeast Asia’s Grab, formerly known as GrabTaxi. Now under Lyft – which is another competitor for Uber in the US, Grab was the first taxi booking app to breach Southeast Asia. These two big names are shifting tides in the transport industry, creating new opportunities for drivers and better options for passengers.
Benefits of Riding with Uber or Grab
While the two apps certainly share the same notion when it comes to picking up passengers, one may prefer the other. Either because of existing promo codes or ease of availability, taxi booking apps, in general are convenient and timesaving. Whether you use Uber or Grab, here are several benefits that you can experience as a passenger:
In a study conducted by Deloitte Access Economics in Australia, by booking with Uber or Grab, you can save almost 50% of your time waiting for a taxi. In average Australians wait about 8 minutes to hail a cab but with a taxi booking app, you can get picked up in under 4.5 minutes!
According to an analysis by Anastasios Noulas, a data scientist from Lancaster University, booking a taxi through your phone is much cheaper compared to hailing a cab, especially for longer trips. Aside from that, Uber and Grab also provide an estimated rate and a fixed rate respectively. You will be able to know the cost of the trip before booking.
Now that everybody has a smartphone and access to the Internet, all you need to do is set a pickup location with the help of your phone’s GPS and wait for a driver to answer your request. You will also get an ETA of your driver so you can buy some time to get to the pickup location.
Benefits of Driving Under Uber or Grab
Taxi booking apps are convenient for both the passenger and the driver. As a passenger, you can enjoy a safe, convenient, and affordable trip from point A to point B with the use of taxi booking apps like Grab and Uber. For drivers, however, you get more than what your passenger pays you. Here are some real treats for Grab and Uber drivers that you can’t find in any other taxi fleets today:
For Grab or Uber drivers, working is more of a long road trip with various stops and passengers along the way. You can work on your own time, area, and convenience. You can open the application and close it according to how you like it.
Providing a Welcoming Service
As a driver, you will be able to meet new people everyday, taking them to different places around the city. If you love social interaction, then being an Uber or Grab driver is something you can get into. Passengers are generally appreciative of their drivers, this provides a sense of purpose within the community. Overall, it is a rewarding job that everyone could potentially qualify.
Taxi Protests in Southeast Asia
Taxi booking apps are an amazing tool for tourists, expats, and locals wherever you may be in Southeast Asia but it’s also wrapped in controversy. Being a preferred mode of transportation, taxi drivers are left with no passengers, causing massive protests and transportation strikes across the region.
This year, thousands of drivers in Jakarta, Indonesia held massive demonstrations against Uber and Grab, saying that these apps have disrupted the transportation industry. Protestors blocked roads causing massive traffic jams to already congested roads and attacked other taxi drivers who did not partake in the demonstration. Following Jakarta, Malaysian drivers also held a protest expressing their anger against Grab and Uber and demanding the government to ban these apps. However, unlike in Jakarta, these rallies did not end up in violence but caused major inconvenience to the public.
In the Philippines, however, it’s a different story. Uber is still unavailable in the country because of the absence of Google turn-by-turn navigation needed by the app, except in Manila. Grab is available in major areas of the country such as in the capital, Cebu, and Davao but only a handful can use the app outside their home network due to poor data connection. The looming boom of this new industry has the government concerned, particularly the safety of passengers and for good reason. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is filled with complaints from passengers against taxi drivers who are known to swindle and mug passengers. Cautious about the implications of taxi booking apps, the LTFRB is currently drafting guideline operations that would benefit both parties. For Filipino commuters, however, Uber and Grab offer a safer, cleaner, and more convenient option.
Technology is inevitable. Taxi booking apps will continue to improve with better and more advanced features. If you book a taxi from Grab or Uber for a time traveller from the 50s or even as late as the 80s, he or she would be surprised at how advanced and alien-like our smartphones and GPS systems would be. However, even with the technology behind these taxi booking apps, there is still much we can improve on. One example of such technology are driverless or autonomous cars which are currently being developed and tested. Imagine using an app that enables commuters to use autonomous cars by booking them similar to how we do it today. Futuristic, almost alien-like, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Grab or Uber are able to bring this technology to the masses on full scale.