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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

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!