TORONTO - 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.
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."