New companies like Uber and Hailo are shaking up the taxi industry with GPS-based apps that allow customers to summon a taxi to wherever they’re standing.
Wildly popular in San Francisco, these so-called “e-hails” have been catching on in New York City, too. New stats from the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission show that customers made 117,000 total e-hail requests in June but, in a curious side note, the e-hails produced only about 20,000 actual taxi rides.
There is no obvious explanation for the 17% success rate but, according to the Wall Street Journal story that cited the figures, the companies say that some of the misses can be explained by the fact that a user tapped the e-hail button more than once. In other cases, presumably, the ride doesn’t materialize because a car fails to show up or because the user found another taxi or transport option.
Update: Uber provided the following statement:
“E-hail apps can work at times, but not when they’re needed most. We’re seeing success in the Outer Boroughs and at off-peak hours, but at peak times in Manhattan, we’re seeing growth in our reliable sedan service uberX but not so much on the e-hail/uberTaxi side.”
Change in taxi driving habits
The Journal story notes that many of the e-hails occur in the boroughs of Brooklyn or Queens where rides are harder to come by than in Manhattan. The story also explains how the new app services are changing the driving habits of yellow cab drivers, who are historically reluctant to take rides outside of Manhattan.
The new app services are also fueling conflict between yellow cab drivers and livery cab services, which are regulated differently under New York’s convoluted taxi laws.
According to Aarjav Trivedi, the CEO of another upstart taxi service called InstantCab, the e-hail system will eventually prevail because it aligns the interest of customers and drivers. “The cab companies don’t have a great incentive to serve you or the service. They don’t care about the customer,” said Trivedi, in a recent phone interview.