How taxi apps use location data to power their service

Getting a taxi on the street can be a mighty challenge today. Cabbies tend to stick to their own routes and may not want to drive to a certain area during peak hour traffic. Calling a radio taxi can come with its own problems. The dispatch centre may not be able to send you one during high-demand periods or system glitches could hamper communication. Enter the new kid on the block – the taxi app. It promises to connect you to the nearest available cab. A few taps on your smartphone can help you track your cab as it makes its way to you. Along with fare estimates and convenient payments, it promises a cab experience like never before.


So how does a taxi app differ from black-and-yellow cabs and radio taxis? It uses your smartphone to connect you to your potential ride. So a direct link is established between commuter and cabbie. This mitigates a lot of the hassle usually experienced while ordering a cab.


How is a taxi app different from other taxis?


Radio taxis like Meru, TabCab, etc. run on the dispatch system. The rider makes a call to the taxi service and requests a cab. The dispatcher then sends out a taxi to the pick-up address. Depending on availability and traffic conditions, it can take a while before the cab arrives. And when it is late, a call needs to be made to the company and that can involve wait time during busy periods. Many radio taxis quote a minimum wait time before the cab is likely to arrive.


Taxi apps aim to eliminate a lot of this guesswork by directly linking the commuter to the cab driver. By using GPS, the app on the rider’s smartphone promises a seamless ride from pick-up to drop including payment of fare.


Phone power


To understand how a taxi app functions utilizing features on the smartphone, let’s first understand how such a phone operates. Any cellular phone is actually a sophisticated version of a two-way radio. The phone sends and receives signals from the nearest base station or tower. These towers are spread out into a network of cells. As the user moves from one cell to another, the phone’s signal transfers from one tower to the other. So the user’s network reception is sustained as he keeps moving.


Smartphones today are GPS-enabled. Simply put, the Global Positioning System (GPS) communicates with satellites orbiting the earth to locate your position on a map and helps you navigate your route. The GPS feature on a smartphone helps you do this using your phone as a GPS receiver. A taxi app like Uber or TaxiForSure utilizes these phone features to deliver a more engaging and exciting cab experience.


Location is key


The promise of a personalized cab-ride experience from a taxi app rides largely on the use of location data. The user first downloads the app onto his or her smartphone and sets up an account. When requesting a ride, the app requests the rider to disclose their location via GPS. Then the nearest available driver is located to match the request with an estimated time of arrival. When the rider accepts the match, he can then usually view the route taken by the driver to the pick-up point. The rider gets a notification when the driver is arriving. Some apps may need you to enter your destination. This can give the driver an idea of the fare. The cab’s arrival time gives the rider a chance to get ready while at home or work.


The GPS feature also enables the rider to check the route of the ride. This can help understand if it is an efficient route and the driver is not deliberately taking detours. The GPS data is also used to calculate the fare based on distance traveled.


A taxi app is also convenient for the cab driver. As soon as a rider places a request, the cabbie usually has a window of time within which to accept the request. If he is not able to accept it, it automatically reassigns the request to the next closest driver. And both rider and driver get to rate each other at the end of the ride. And if a driver doesn’t accept requests often it can bring down his rating. And the rating on the rider also gives the driver an idea. Some apps don’t pair riders and drivers who rate each other 3 points or less in a 5-point rating system.


Taxi apps claim to provide an exciting and personalized ride by simplifying the taxi hailing experience. In modern cities plagued with tough traffic conditions, where the taxi driver on the street is not always reliable, a taxi app is a disruptive innovation designed to give a satisfactory cab-riding experience. And the location data used by the app goes a long way in delivering that experience.

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