Company: Flywheel Software
Source: Boston Globe
MANCHESTER, England — When you’ve been driving cabs around a city for three decades, you get to know a lot about it.
Just ask John Consterdine.
You probably won’t actually have to ask him. He’ll just cheerfully jump into the story about how, while he waited during all those years to pick up fares outside Manchester’s Piccadilly train station, “rather than sit there and count the bricks, I had books with me. I’d get out a book and look at the architecture.”
And when he shared the resulting knowledge with his passengers, Consterdine will tell you, “People would say to me, ‘Oh, can you tell me a little bit more?’ It had a great effect on the level of gratuities.”
So when the rideshare company Uber (he pronounces it “YOO-ber”) came to Manchester, Consterdine had a backup plan: In addition to driving his iconic black taxi for the usual fares, he uses it to take visitors around on guided tours.
More and newer technology doesn’t hurt either. Many city taxi companies have added Uber-style apps whose functions vary.
One of the biggest players in new taxi apps is Flywheel, which California regulators have approved to replace meters.
“That’s what Uber was able to do — replace everything and give the drivers one smartphone — which made it just a more pleasurable experience,” said Oneal Bhambani, Flywheel’s president and CFO. “It’s stating the obvious, but the taxi industry didn’t have that. They had scale, but they lacked technology. Now they have technology to fight back and give the passenger a good experience.”
For users, Flywheel offers Uber-like features such as letting riders split fares and rate their drivers, encouraging better service. There are also some unique functions: Customers can name their own prices at slow times, hail taxis on the street but still pay through the app, and lure drivers to come and get them at busy periods by entering guaranteed tips. Flywheel even sends cabbies encouraging texts and e-mails, reminding them to be polite.
The app will launch soon in New York City. (Like Arro, it has its sights set on Boston for later in the year.)