A Toronto taxi company is taking on ride-sharing company Uber with its own taxi app.
Beck Taxi has been testing an app for the past few months that will allow customers to order cabs through their smartphone and provide a map that will allow riders to track their cab in real time, the Toronto Star reports.
“It’s kinda like (Uber), but more legal,” taxi fleet operator Sam Moini told the newspaper.
Beck’s app is available in the iTunes store, but the page promises “a whole new app … very soon.”
The app is just one part of the company’s shift into the digital age. With the arrival of Uber and other ride-sharing services, the radio-based dispatch system used by cab companies is beginning to look outdated and inefficient.
Beck is planning to digitize its dispatch system, providing tablets to all 1,850 of its taxis that will allow dispatchers to deploy cabs more efficiently and create a more responsive network of drivers, Torontoist reports.
“Every car will have a navigation tool helping drivers get to where they need to pick people up,” Beck operations manager Christine Hubbard told CityNews last fall.
But Beck isn’t getting rid of the radio-dispatch system just yet, instead using the tablet-based system to augment its radio operations.
“We want to make sure that the senior citizen who doesn’t have a smartphone is still going to be able to get to the grocery store,” Hubbard told the Star.
Back's move is part of a global trend of cab companies switching to digital dispatch systems. Companies like AsterRIDE are developing apps for conventional cab companies across the U.S., and in China ride-hailing apps are so advanced they are already involved multibillion-dollar mergers.
But it seems some cabbies are unsure about the technological change taking place.
“The radio is like a human environment,” a taxi driver told Torontoist. “Just like a lot of other cons of technology, we’re gonna lose the human touch in our business. Most of the time it’s just like talking to the computer.”
It’s not just Beck; Torontoist reports that all of the city’s cab companies are working on some sort of plan to digitize their business in the face of stiff competition from aggressively-priced ride-sharing organizations.
Uber has been fighting battles in numerous Canadian cities and worldwide over the legality of its ride-sharing service.
The company argues it isn’t subject to taxi regulations because it isn’t a taxi service, just an app that connects riders with independent drivers.
But Toronto disagrees. Uber faces three dozen bylaw charges and an injunction to shut down its service in the city, the Star reports.
In Montreal, municipal and provincial authorities have been seizing Uber cars and a local lawyer is launching a class-action lawsuit against the service on behalf of cabbies.
In British Columbia, provincial authorities are sending undercover officers into Uber cabs, to hand out fines of up $5,000.
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