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The cabFLARE Story

The Taxi and For-Hire Vehicle market continues to undergo significant technological advancement. With green initiatives, ride sharing pilots, and lots of regulatory changes.

While some conveniences have arrived, such as credit card payments, live maps and in-cab entertainment for passengers, we found that a few major players control vast portions of in-car equipment and communications subjecting drivers and owners to hefty added costs while providing those same drivers and owners little to no increase in business or profitability.

Contrary to many of the vendors profiting from these initiatives, and to our surprise, all of this added technology has done little to nothing to assist drivers in finding a fare or consumers in finding a taxi.

cabFLARE’s beta is an experiment to see if both drivers and consumers alike can find a happy common-ground where drivers can locate nearby fares and consumers get the nearest available vehicle...period. Our research shows that this would disrupt the decades old adage that you cannot reduce cruising time without reducing availability. This disruption alone would be extremely “green”.

Implemented as a mobile web application, cabFLARE does not require personal information or registration from the consumer. Drivers do need to register with cabFlare in order to respond to consumer requests. cabFLARE does not require access to your contacts, phone state, or other personal data on your device, unlike many other mobile apps. cabFLARE also offers users the added feature of using their Twitter credentials to allow the service to update them when a driver responds and is on their way.

We do require that your mobile device and browser supports geo-location services (GPS) and javascript. cabFlare has been tested using Apple’s iOS v3.2.x and higher, Google’s Android v2.2.x, and RIM’s OS v6.x, devices.

While the cabFLARE beta is designed to truly mimic the notion of hailing a taxi, the solution has been built out to enable traditional future bookings, as well as centralized dispatch. These and other features are immediately available for fleet owners.

cabFLARE’s beta applies the KISS principle. Keep It Simple, Sherlock (well, you know what we mean). Any solution can be easily over-engineered. Let’s just see how this resonates, first.

Lastly, we kindly ask for your help in spreading the word. Especially to drivers, since this experiment will fail miserably if nobody is monitoring the sky. Thanks for your interest and with your help, we hope to serve you one day soon.

- Team cabFLARE

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Taxi Drivers Need a Break - cabFLARE empowers.

We recently polled a bunch of Taxi drivers from across the country and asked "Why Are Drivers Slow to Adopt New Mobile Apps?"

Here is what we found.

They are tired of getting ripped off by others.
cabFLARE is free. cabFLARE is self-service. cabFLARE empowers.

The vast majority of drivers do not have smart phones.
This is changing as new smart phone prices are now below $50 and the refurbished market is booming. Since cabFLARE is a mobile web application, it provides the most flexibility when choosing your smart phone - it just needs a location-aware browser that supports javascript - regardless of make or model.

Drivers are concerned with no shows.
As they should be. cabFLARE is the only solution that minimizes the chance of a no show by providing a timed, direct referral service for each driver. Each cabFLARE only lasts for 5 minutes and the destination of the fare, and the distance the driver is from the fare are all displayed to the driver when a cabFLARE is detected nearby.

Told by “boss” not to use them, or that they don’t work.
Oppression sucks. cabFLARE allows you to see for yourself - free - without downloading an app to your smart phone that snoops around gathering your personal information whenever it wants. cabFLARE is the only “Driver Friendly” solution.

Apps are difficult to use.
Drivers can register to use cabFLARE in minutes. Using cabFLARE is as easy as logging in and pressing a button to Start Monitoring for cabFLAREs - all in less than a minute. Consumers can launch a cabFLARE in under a minute as well - why not do it, it’s free.

Apps drain my smart phone’s battery.
cabFLARE is the only app that does not require a constant connection to the internet broadcasting your GPS location - which is the reason your batteries drain so fast when using other apps. cabFLARE only connects when you are logged in and monitoring for nearby cabFLAREs. You can remain logged in without any transmission of your GPS location simply by stopping the monitor - which happens automatically when you accept a fare through cabFLARE.

No customers in my city are using it, why should I?
The typical supply an demand conundrum. It takes only minutes to register to use a completely free cabFLARE. It will take you less than a minute to login and monitor the sky for your next fare whenever your car is empty. Doing this 10 times a day, uses up 10 minutes of your time - but tells us you are watching - in which we will tell your community. Spread the word among drivers and customers, alike. Pretty soon, everyone is using it and everyone will benefit. It has to start with you, the driver. Grass roots, community effort, control your destiny.

The data plan needed for my smart phone costs too much.
All of the other apps constantly transfer boatloads of data to support their pretty images on the drivers’ and fares’ smart phones. Our research shows that the consumer simply wants a car to show up and the driver simply wants to quickly find his next fare. The pretty images do not help to solve either of these problems. cabFLARE does - without passing a lot of data around. We are confident that cabFLARE will use less data than any other app on the market - making cabFLARE the least cost alternative for all.

The apps are just another piece of the dispatch system.
If you are working through dispatch, then your earnings are at the mercy of the dispatcher. cabFLARE is the only solution that breaks the chains of dependency by providing a free, timed, direct referral service for each driver. Use cabFLARE in addition to your dispatch service to increase your earnings. Discover new business just around the corner that your dispatcher may never see.

Using the app will violate rules in my city.
cabFLARE is the only app that can be used in any city. As a free, timed, direct referral service, we have not found any rules or regulations that prohibit the use of cabFLARE.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Good Morning San Francisco!

While we are still wrestling with the alligators in the streets of Manhattan, we thought it would be prudent to share some of the left coast’s taxi drama.

Last week, Transportation Nation offered up a good summary on the current state of affairs of SF Taxis. Of course, this news includes significant rate increases - proposed and passed.

While you can find the entire article here, we wanted to insert how cabFLARE can address the issues Christiane Hayashi, SF Director of Taxi Services (the city’s liaison to the cab drivers) kindly shared in her Q&A with Transportation Nation.

Q: How would you describe the taxi situation in San Francisco right now?
A: If you want to boil it right down to the simplest equation, it is that the taxi passengers need to connect with the taxi drivers. In Los Angeles they did a study, their taxis are empty 40% of the time. If we could get taxis to be empty less of the time, more people would be getting taxi service, and the taxi drivers would be getting more.

CF: So SF doesn't have their own utilization rates, but obviously assume they are similar to LA (and NYC, btw). cabFLARE is the first solution to openly challenge the age old taxi industry adage that you cannot reduce empty cruising time without reducing availability. We are certain that communities using cabFLARE will increase driver revenue relative to fuel costs, while providing better service delivery to consumers and reducing empty cruising by 25%.

Q: Why is it so hard to find a taxi?
A: Passengers and drivers have effectively trained each other in a way that ensures that they will not meet. The customers tend to call more than one taxi knowing that no likely is likely to show up. They call every phone number in the book and they’ll take the first taxi that arrives. Well, that means that every other taxi that responds finds the customer’s not there. Well, if the taxi driver doesn’t respond, the customer is trained to call all these companies, or whatever they can do to get a cab.

CF: cabFLARE is a timed, direct referral service - each cabFLARE lasts five minutes. This means that only empty, available, nearby taxis will be notified of a cabFLARE, so other drivers/companies are not effected. Furthermore, only one responding driver will ever see the pickup address, reducing wasted driver response. Why not provide solutions that assist in breaking old habits, instead of just transferring the problem from phone to smartphone app. Remember, cabFLARE is a mobile web application accessible through any browser, NOT a downloaded, device specific app.

Q: What are some strategies the city is considering to solve this problem?
A: There’s a smartphone app spreading throughout San Francisco called Cabulous, where you can find a taxi on your smartphone and have a direct communication with the driver, not through dispatch system, but just, you see a driver close by, hail them electronically, and then see them approach on your smartphone. So we’d like to explore those options because they don’t interfere with telephone dispatch, they’re just another way to communicate with a taxi.

CF: The real problem is the bandwidth and processing needed to see all of the pretty cab images on your phone.  cabFLARE’s can be launched in as little as 20 seconds (from loading of web app to launch of cabFLARE) - and then your are back to looking for a cab, not looking at your phone. The vast majority of consumers don’t care what taxi company or driver responds to their need, so the community rating and other fluff is silly. Those that do should have that company on autodial with their phone - who needs an app for that?

Q: Will this work for people who don’t have smartphones?
A: You could put an iPad in a Safeway grocery store where someone leaving the store could hail a cab from there. You could have the receptionist at a clinic hailing a cab from the internet site instead of trying to call through the dispatcher. You can reach people at the grocery store, the library, coming out of a doctor’s appointment. And I think that has a lot of potential to increase service.

CF: cabFLARE can enable SMS text messages and/or Twitter messaging from non-smartphones.  In addition, businesses can use cabFLARE or eventFLARE for their patrons today.

And, in closing, cabFLARE can be used by drivers adopting Square, Inc.'s low-cost, self-empowered payments system for your smartphone. Why wait days to get your hard-earned money from other vendors. Aren’t we all tired of the drivers getting marginalized at every turn by <fill in your favorite oppressor here>? cabFLARE wants to help you help yourself and your community to make things better for all.

Please help spread the word. Thanks!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wake Up New York City!

While we try to awaken "The City That Never Sleeps" to a better and immediate way to address many of the City's taxi issues, we thought we would clarify the myth that NYC Yellow taxi drivers can't use their smartphones while on duty.

What myth you say? Well, it appears that even the so-called taxi driver advocates take part in the mis-information to drivers. Let's look at the Taxi Insider's January 2010, "Telling It Like It Is" article by Vincent Sapone, managing director of LOMTO. In discussing some new TLC rules, he gets the first part correct stating that:

"... New cell phone rules which include any electronic devices, other that the TLC approved T- PEP (or what most guys call GPS) will start in the middle of January. If TLC Enforcement catches you on the phone or texting or programming a navigation device or messing with any electronic device while you're driving; besides a fine you'll get 3 points for a first offense, 3 points for a second offense and 4 points for a third offense plus you'll have to attend a Distracted Driver Class.

The fine and the class aren't so bad when your realize the 6 point in 15 months gets you a thirty day suspension and 10 points in 15 months gets your Hack License revoked! If you get revoked you could be out of work for a year."

And then continues by clearly mis-informing all drivers by emphatically stating:

"The only time you can use any electronic device if you're 'OFF- DUTY” and either legally parked or standing." (his emphasis, not mine)

My understanding of this TLC rule is that it allows the driver to use any electronic device while the driver's vehicle is either legally parked or standing. The regulation does not include language regarding being on or off duty.

So, in Mr. Sapone's defense, I am sure he meant to say "The only time you can use any electronic device is when you're ON-DUTY OR OFF-DUTY and either legally parked or standing."

Well, maybe this is all old news and every driver knows the TLC just wanted them to stop talking while driving. I would hope the driver "advocates" would do a better job when helping to interpret the rules for the drivers.

Oh, and btw, we thought we'd share the NEW version of the rule we just discussed. Fortunately, it hasn't changed, so drivers are still able to use their smartphones while their vehicle is lawfully standing or parked, regardless of their duty status.

From the TLC's Industry Notice #11-12, dated March 23, 2011...

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) is pleased to announce that a new easier to read and understand TLC rulebook will be in full force and effect as of Friday, April 1, 2011. The existing rulebook will be repealed as of that date.

From the New Rulebook, Chapter 54, Section 54-14 Operations - Passenger and Driver Safety, part (e) Use of Electronic Communication Device, paragraph (1)...

"A Driver must not Use an Electronic Communication Device while operating a Vehicle. A Driver can Use an Electronic Device only while the Vehicle is lawfully standing or parked."

This means that NYC Yellow Taxi Drivers can use cabFLARE! Technology that finally helps drivers and riders without being controlled by the TLC or the privileged few.

OK drivers, let us know what you think. All of the driver advocates in NYC and the TLC know about cabFLARE and the opportunity it offers drivers to make more money, more efficiently. The question is, "have they told you about us, yet?" If not, why not?

Stay tuned, we'll try to let you know the answers and we hope this clears up any concern in using cabFLARE.  NYC TLC rules allow Yellow Taxi drivers to use cabFLARE on their smartphones.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

cabFLARE Launches - FREE Public Beta

Let the experiment begin!

cabFLAREs only last around five minutes. So launch away.

eventFLAREs last around fifteen minutes.

Consumers:  Creating demand will tell local drivers - "hey, use this".

Drivers:   Local monitoring tells consumers - "hey, we're watching for you".

Both:  Please be patient while each of you scale.

Will cabFLARE work for your community?

We want to hear from you.

Thank you for your participation!   (see Press Release)