by Kevin Cureau | Photo Credits: Rae Lee, Arjun Bharadwaj | 10 March 2014
Easy Taxi is an app for smartphones that allows you to book a taxi with just the tap of a finger. The goal is to connect drivers and passengers and create a more convenient way to get taxis. In the four months they have been in Hong Kong, Easy Taxi has signed up over 6,000 taxis and their app has been downloaded more than 125,000 times.
Now people might wonder why they would need an app to call a taxi when they can just go outside and hail a taxi. Hong Kong has over 18,000 taxis and in the span of 5 minutes, 50 of them will pass by you. But have you ever experienced that moment when it’s raining a lot and you’re trying to get a taxi but none of them are available and there’s a long queue at the taxi stand because everyone wants a taxi?
The app uses GPS technology to accurately pin-point your location and find an available taxi near you by sending a request to all vacant taxis nearby. Once a taxi accepts the ride, you can follow the location of the taxi and watch it arrive in real-time. Taxis take 5 to 6 minutes on average to arrive and the meter of the taxi will only start once you get in the car.
To ensure quality and security of the service, each taxi driver is screened by Easy Taxi. The company collects the driver’s name, license number, taxi information, photo and other relevant details and verifies them with the government.
Once a taxi is booked, you will receive all the driver’s information so you know which one is coming to pick you up. Having all this information will also allow you to quickly contact the taxi if, as it tends to happen from time to time, you ever leave something in the vehicle.
Easy Taxi was present last week at The University of Hong Kong for “The Future of Technology” conference. Blake Larson, the Managing Director for Easy Taxi in Asia, says that it’s all about improving efficiency. “What we are doing is trying to educate people of a more convenient way… we are making the taxi acquisition process for passengers much easier because we provide them the certainty and the security that they don’t necessarily get if they just walk out to the curb to find a taxi.”
Taxi drivers in Hong Kong are unique, some of them will refuse to take you because the destination where you want to go is too far for them. That is technically illegal in Hong Kong but a lot of taxi drivers will do that. With the app, since you give all the details of your destination beforehand, you are guaranteed to reach your destination wherever that might be.
Questions for Easy Taxi?
Easy Taxi might be the ideal solution to the struggles that people have with taxis in Hong Kong, but it also raises some questions.
Will the app make people use taxis more often? With Hong Kong’s highly efficient transportation system, with the MTR, double-decker buses, red minibuses and green minibuses, you really only take a taxi when you carry big items with you or when you want to get somewhere faster, and taxis are more expensive.
What if a destination is too far and not convenient for taxi drivers? They can choose not to accept the ride and you are stuck with the same problem you had without the app – nobody wants to drive you. How will Easy Taxi solve that issue?
For people living in the countryside, taxis are not as common as on the Hong Kong island. If they want a taxi, they book it in advance but it takes 20 minutes to reach them. Will Easy Taxi be a way to speed up that process for these people?
Young and Full of Potential
Easy Taxi is still a young app but it is growing rapidly. They are setting up partnerships, with Octopus for example, so that the app becomes an everyday part our lives in Hong Kong. Lots of new features like in-app payment, advanced booking and direct messaging with drivers are in the works to improve the user experience.
Easy Taxi is present in 28 countries in more than 100 cities and is available for iOS, Android, Windows phone and Samsung AppStore.