In the past, the famous yellow cabs needed to be physically hailed for a ride, but with the introduction of apps such as Uber, Sidecar, and Hailo, our smartphones can do the work for us. These apps also open a wider variety of rides beside the typically yellow cab, including the occasional Tesla Model S.
Uber is one of the biggest names in the business, and works by showing the user a map of available rides, from taxis to black cars or SUVs (the new UberChopper app allows the more privileged of us to even call in air support). The app will give an estimated arrival and fare before you have to commit.
Sidecar is a hitchhiker style app that allows any average Joe that can pass a background check, to pick up passengers for a little extra cash. For added safety, every ride is tracked by GPS and their rating system applies to riders, as well as drivers.
By allowing strangers to car pool or taxis to drive straight to customers, we can reduce the idle driving in between fares and the carbon emissions that result. These apps have placed themselves in the middle of an extremely vital part of city living, a power that should not be taken lightly. Uber has been accused of price gouging on peak holidays, which they call a case of supply-and-demand. It’s just one of the criticisms that have been placed on the e-hail industry, and it isn’t limited to the U.S.
In Shanghai, taxi drivers have been accused of discriminating against the technologically inept, which in many cases includes the elderly. One such story tells of an old woman attempting to call for a taxi after leaving the hospital for tests. While several drivers stopped, they only asked if she was a user of their app. When she told the driver no, away they went, leaving the elderly lady on the curb. She continued her attempts for nearly an hour without success.
Part of the problem lies in the way the drivers are rewarded. Certain apps offer bonuses for picking up fares that use their app, and this has led to the discrimination charges against the taxi companies. As a result, Shanghai’s municipal government forbids drivers from accepting fares through e-hail apps between the hours of 7:30am-9:30am and 4:30pm-6:30pm, which are pretty much peak operating hours.
With an estimated 940 million miles being driven by NYC cab drivers alone, a little efficiency goes a long way and setbacks such as these are merely speed bumps in the road to bringing this vital industry into the 21st century.