Taxis may catch up to Uber with this long-overdue app

Flywheel is developing a smartphone-based app for taxi drivers
Will replacing standard fare meters for smartphones be enough to save taxis?

California-based app developer Flywheel began a pilot program today for a new system that would allow taxi drivers to use smartphones technology in the place of traditional fare meters and other hardware.

This program, dubbed TaxiOS, seeks to assist taxi companies previously struggling with the high costs of equipment and labor involved in updating the infrastructure of cabs. TaxiOS would be a separate but compatible system from a main mobile app, also called Flywheel, which allows users to request, track, and pay for taxis with their phone, similar to competitors Uber and Lyft.

TaxiOS, once implemented, would help streamline a cab's hardware setup down to a single device, namely a Motorola Moto E running the software, skirting the need for expensive equipment overhaul and lengthy cab decommissions. The app would incorporate GPS tracking, virtual meters and flexible payment options which help drivers locate customers, assist navigation and improve fare estimates.

What will give taxis the edge?

A major incentive for taxi companies to switch to TaxiOS would not only be the ability to modernize vehicles at a low cost, but also provide more flexible payment options than its ride-sharing competition.

TaxiOS' planned ability to allow cash, credit or mobile payment would set taxi cabs apart from other on-request driver services like Uber, which only accept mobile payments.

"You can hail a taxi even if you don't have a smartphone or credit card," Bob Patterson, Flywheel director of communications, told techradar, describing that the system will allow taxi companies to be on the "same footing, technology-wise" as competitors.

TaxiOS will become available in Los Angeles, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego and Seattle after it completes its pilot program in San Francisco. The company has been working to expand its scope to include other major markets and is currently undergoing testing in New York.

Once put in use by a taxi fleet, Flywheel has stated that the plan is to continue the payment strategy used by the company's flagship mobile app, which includes cuts from completed fares and processing fees for credit cards and mobile payments. Patterson clarified that Flywheel won't take cuts from fares paid in cash using the company's software.

Will TaxiOS be the shot in the arm for taxis to compete with modern alternatives? If nothing else, not having to wave your arms wildly in the street or be gouged on a fare thanks to an inaccurate meter from the 90s' is a welcome improvement.

Parker Wilhelm
Parker Wilhelm is a freelance writer for TechRadar. He likes to tinker in Photoshop and talk people's ears off about Persona 4.