Travel apps are all the rage, especially when it comes to getting around in the Big Smoke. There are bus checkers and train finders coming out of our app store ears, but the most recent trend has been for getting about in the privacy of a car hired just for you. Yes, we all know about the executive car app for Addison Lee, we very recently met the Hackney Carriage end of the equation with GetTaxi, but today it’s all about minicabs.
If there’s one thing that ex-Googler Jay Patel and his co-founders at ubiCabs hate, it’s inefficiencies. Minicabs are stationed by a local controller and, when you hire one, it’s either going to pick you up from, or take you to, an area where it’s not going to be able to get another fare. Worse still, in cities like London, the transport agency forbids minicabs getting customers off the streets, so the drivers and the companies that dispatch them end up having to pay for the petrol of one leg of the journey on their own, ie, without a passenger in the car.
That’s where ubiCabs comes in, according to Patel. The service acts as a booking agent for as many minicab firms as it can get. The idea is that customers then request taxis through either an Android or iPhone app, or by using a web interface. The ubiCabs system will then instantly search and access all the minicab controller information to assign the nearest, available and - most importantly - the cheapest car for your needs.
The app itself is fairly familiar to the others we’ve seen. As with most of these systems, ubiCabs tracks your position by GPS or you can add your pick-up point manually. The selection of what kind of car, how much luggage you have and how many passengers is nicely handled, as well as the way you can track your cab’s journey to you on a live map. So, no more waiting around and wondering.
While the main idea behind it all is obviously to get taxis at your convenience without having to pay Black Cab prices. One would also hope that both the added petrol efficiency and the behind-the-scenes price bidding system might result in minicab costs going down. Sadly, this doesn’t yet seem to be the case with all the journeys we’ve been quoted so far being pretty much what we’d expect to pay normally.
Still, with the added convenience on top, it’s well worth a try. Sure, it’s not much different from picking up the phone if you’re looking to get from your home to a night out, but it’s just the answer for those tedious queues when you’re on your way back from the middle of town.
At the moment, ubiCabs covers just London within the M25 but, so long as it can stay ahead of the competition, expect to see the service rolling out to a town near you soon.