BetterTaxi Launches With Shared Cab Feature Planned

By Conor Rushby |

Taxis used to be, as the old saying goes, like policemen – there was never one around when you needed it. Thanks to the plethora of taxi apps now on the market, however, the whole process of getting from A to B is much easier. They haven’t been welcomed by everyone in the cab industry, but BetterTaxi is hoping the launch of its iPhone and Android apps will change that.

The startup works with existing taxi dispatch centres rather than individual drivers as they have the infrastructure to not only better inform the platform of which cars are available, but also to increase their number. BetterTaxi is also looking to implement a system where you can share cabs with other app users to save money and help the environment.

Having originally planned to launch in April, the BetterTaxi team instead proceeded with a closed beta to ensure they had wide enough taxi coverage and stable performance from the app. Now, upon launch, they promise 1,000 available taxis in Berlin from two dispatch centres, and thus shorter waiting times.

Using existing taxi companies benefits both parties. The app can pull drivers from the firms’ books, expanding their range, while it stops these companies from losing custom to other apps.

In the pipeline is also a plan to facilitate shared taxi journeys and shared costs, moving beyond a simple directory. Using the app you would be able to find who else is taking a similar journey nearby and then meet up. Booking in advance would give the user more chance of finding a ride-share.

This system brings benefits to established firms. It gives drivers decent fares, such as to and from the airport, while reducing the time spent queueing in taxi ranks. The startup also hopes it will grow the use of taxis, specifically those put off by its cost; it will have to work hard to encourage the concept of sharing cabs.

Currently, payment is also an issue. BetterTaxi is free, but customers must register their credit card to use the app; they then pay the driver in cash. But the three founders – Fredrik Forstbach, Marius Schatke, and Dr. Niels Beisinghoff – are working on a cashless solution, even if they are choosing to keep their cards close to their chest for now.

Problems aside, they’re using Open Street Maps, rather than Google Maps, to orientate drivers and users, while BetterTaxi is using Berlin as a launchpad for the service. They have laid down a declaration of intent to expand the app’s range to other cities, starting with provision of telephone numbers for local dispatch centres. In the meantime, a Blackberry version is next.