Company: Flywheel Software
by: Carolyn Said
As David Robertson drives through San Francisco, a GPS-enabled smartphone app alerts him about people who want to hire him for a ride via their own smartphones. It shows him their location with pinpoint accuracy and handles payments seamlessly though their credit cards.
Robertson isn’t among the legions of newly minted freelance drivers cruising the streets in their own cars for upstart ride services Lyft, Sidecar or UberX.
He’s a nine-year veteran of venerable Luxor Cab using a taxi-hailing app called Flywheel from a Redwood City company of the same name.
Flywheel, now in two-thirds of San Francisco cabs, may be the beleaguered taxi industry’s best bet to compete against the tech-enabled newcomers.
“Flywheel will help us level the playing field,” Robertson said. “It’s exactly the same (as the rivals’ services) in all the ways that count, but without the issues.”
Those issues – insurance coverage, car inspections, driver training – are hammered home by taxi drivers fearful of losing their livelihood to new rivals that operate with fewer regulations.
“In San Francisco the taxi fleets understand that they need to modernize to survive,” said Flywheel CEO Steve Humphreys, a Stanford-trained engineer and serial entrepreneur.
Flywheel’s secret weapon is centralized dispatch. Instead of passengers calling a specific company and being limited to its available cabs, the app finds the nearest cab among all participating drivers regardless of taxi company.
“An app that orders a cab from (almost) every cab company in the city will fix the problem where riders call multiple cab companies because they’re so impatient they can’t wait,” said Trevor Johnson, a Luxor driver.