Morgan Tait

Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's consumer affairs reporter.

Cheap cab just an app away

Phone link aims to help Kiwis find cheapest, closest taxis but the industry's not so sure.

Arjun (left) and BK Sharma say their Cab Chooze app will be good for drivers and consumers. Photo / Richard Robinson
Arjun (left) and BK Sharma say their Cab Chooze app will be good for drivers and consumers. Photo / Richard Robinson

A new app aims to help Kiwis find the closest, cheapest taxi and rates individual drivers, but industry watchdogs say they are wary of the tool.

Cab Chooze began in Auckland yesterday and developers say it will find consumers the best deal and generate extra business for drivers.

The idea was developed by Youchooze IT, a family business run by West Aucklanders BK Sharma, his son Arjun and wife Payal.

Project manager Mr Sharma said the idea came in 2011 when Arjun was unable to hail a taxi late at night.

"It took him hours to get a cab and the price was so high that he was really quite shocked, which made him come up with the idea of 'why can't cabs be available to the consumer conveniently?'

"Cab Chooze means the consumer has the choice to pick their cab based on its rating, how quickly it can come to them and on the fare."

The former insurance broker said the taxi-driving profession could be "a lottery" and the app meant drivers could take more fares.

Similar apps overseas had been controversial, and New Zealand Taxi Federation executive director Tim Reddish said the industry was "wary".

"We are not worried about competition, we are concerned about the safeguards there for the public and the reputation of the taxi industry."

He said the industry was largely based on phone records, and apps removed that safeguard. There was a risk unregistered taxi drivers could muscle in on the app's clientele.

"I'm just concerned from a public-safety point of view that it's a professional taxi service with a proper record of each journey and whoever is providing that service is providing a safe service," he said. "I am not sure that that will necessarily happen when applications are used."

Mr Sharma said drivers had to enrol to the service and were verified by their taxi licence. All records were kept on file and drivers were trained and only given access to the system once all steps were completed.

"We are very much concerned with safety and codes of conduct."

Transport Agency spokesman Anthony Frith said the body welcomed innovation that made life easier for people, but it needed to be done responsibly.


How it works

* Taxi drivers register with Cab Chooze.

* Smartphone users download the free app.

* When a taxi is required, users enter their location and destination into a search engine that returns the prices and proximity of nearby cabs.

* Users know the cost of the trip in advance and choose the closest cab or the cheapest fare.

* Drivers pay a flat fee of $1.99 per fare to the app developers.

* Users can rate their drivers and feedback is publicly displayed.

- NZ Herald

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