Kitchener-based United Taxi is the first cab company in Ontario to offer free Wi-Fi in its vehicles, a move it hopes will set the company apart in an increasingly-competitive market.
United Taxi spokesman Ajmer Mandur estimates an average cab ride in Waterloo Region is only 10 to 15 minutes long, but free Wi-Fi will still appeal to the region's relatively young, high-tech demographic – as well as those traveling out of town on business.
"We have a lot of riders who take long rides to (the) Toronto airport and they're mainly business people and they want to stay connected," said Mandur, secretary-treasurer with the board that governs United Taxi.
$350K for new dispatch, payment, Wi-Fi system
Mandur said the company spent more than $350,000 to overhaul its payment and dispatch system, and at the same time, installed password-protected Wi-Fi in its cabs.
"We have always tried to stay on top of everything, so at this point the need for the future, or the need for the current riders we have, they want to stay connected. And I think it will give the edge (over) our competition, not only to our local competition, but also to the outside competition that we're continuously getting," Mandur said.
That outside competition is, of course, ride-hailing app Uber, which launched its service in Waterloo Region in July, 2015.
As in many other cities around the world, local taxi companies resisted Uber's arrival and have demanded municipal governments step in to regulate the company.
While initially the Region of Waterloo indicated it would be the first municipality in the country to regulate ride-sharing through a local bylaw, it later backed away from the plan, saying instead it would wait for the province to take the lead.