Taxis are now available in your city at the touch of an icon on your smartphone
Driver Nickson is on his way from Nungambakkam in a Ford Endeavour. He is 21 minutes away. No, 19. The car-shaped icon moves like an ant on the smartphone’s screen as time ticks by. It tells us exactly where the taxi is at which point in time. He glides to a stop as one watches him on the screen. The taxi is here — the entire process happened at the touch of an app on the smartphone. Call taxis, these days, don’t require a ‘call’ for you to avail their service. All you have to do is download an app. Companies such as Uber, Ola, and Meru put you in touch with their drivers through a well-coordinated system that involves the GPS.
The Uber app for instance, can be downloaded onto Android phones and iPhones (it is not available for Windows phones). The taxi can be booked by just tapping on the icon; the nearest Uber driver is informed of your location and so are you. Before you know it, your taxi is booked — the app lets you monitor the driver’s location on Google maps, displays his name, and the car’s registration number.
“Uber’s specialty is on-the-spot booking,” says Nickson. “You can book your cab while you’re on the move.” And there is no cash involved — once you register with Uber, the bill amount is debited from your credit card. The best thing regarding Uber is their cars — Honda Civic, Accord, Toyota Camry, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar. Launched in the city in January this year, Uber is the next big thing in taxis.
“Welcome to Meru. Your billing has started,” announces a mechanised voice as one enters a Meru taxi. “It’s the Tab,” points out driver Samuel David. “All of our cabs come fitted with Tabs. We use them to monitor the meter.” The Tab displays the start time, customer’s name, and drop location. “We have 60 cars running in the city; we launched a month ago,” explains Samuel. The Meru app works in a similar way; it is available on Google Play, App Store, and Windows Store.
Ola Cabs, yet another new line of taxis, are also available at a single touch — the app is available on App Store and Google Play. “There is no confusion regarding the client’s location. Once they book a cab, I get to know their location through GPS,” says driver K.N. Gopinath.
Despite it all, these taxis are priced nominally. Which is why, “these days, even people who own cars take taxis to be dropped off and picked up from the airport,” according to Gopinath. They are also widely used by women who go pubbing late night. “On Fridays and weekends, our customers are mostly couples and party-goers who prefer us for our luxury cabs,” says Nickson.
“We also have the option of card payment,” adds Samuel. Meru has strict rules for its drivers. Displayed on the dashboard is an oath that has lines such as ‘I will not drink and drive’, ‘I will charge the customer as per the meter’, and ‘I will be alert at all times’. “There is just one word I don’t understand,” says Samuel as the car zooms through Anna Salai. “What does ‘groom’ mean? We are repeatedly told to be well-groomed.” Just then, the taxi pulls up at our destination and the mechanised voice calls out: “Thank you for using Meru.”