Canada

Uber and Hailo apps let you hail cab with your smartphone

App that lets users hail cabs with a smartphone are rolling out across Canada. But taxi industry says unregulated drivers are taking a chunk out of their business.

New apps let you hail and pay for a cab with your smartphone

Taxi apps are already up and running in several Canadian cities, with more poised to come online. (Getty Images/Flickr RF)
Next time you need to hail a cab, there's an app for that. 

Actually there are several, with taxi apps for smartphones now being used in several Canadian cities.

Uber, along with a similar company called Hailo, are connecting customers with taxis in an easy way. You open the app, preset your credit card information and tip amount, find a cab near you on a map, click on your screen and you've hailed a taxi.

Driver accept the fares through their smartphones and then their names, pictures and phone numbers appear on your phone. 

Once you're done your trip, you simply get out of the car and your credit card is automatically charged.

Smartphone app Uber let taxi users hail cabs from their phones. (Getty Images/Flickr RF)
Travis
Kalanick is the founder of Uber, and his app is now operable in 45 countries and expanding quickly. The ultimate goal is to get to every major city in the world. So far in Canada, it is currently operating in Toronto, Mississauga, Montreal and Halifax while Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary may not be far away.

But the rise of this service is instigating debate about the role of technology in cities. Some of Uber's low cost rides are from people who aren't licensed taxi drivers. They're anyone looking to make some extra cash on the side with their own car.

Germany made headlines last week when they banned the low cost portion of the service saying it doesn't protect customers adequately.

Tom Slee is an author based in Waterloo who writes about the politics of technology and works in the software industry. He says Uber is moving too fast.

"They're basically coming in and they're saying you don't need all these regulations that cities around the world have seen fit to put around transit and around taxis," Slee said.

Slee says it isn't constructive because taxis are essentially an extension of public transit and therefore need to be held to a different standard than other industries.

That sentiment was echoed in June when taxi drivers across Europe protested the use of Uber because it was unfairly eating into their business.

Here in Canada we haven't seen that kind of response. Perhaps, in part, because only a few cities are using the service right now and the city of Vancouver banned it in 2012 for not complying with local transportation laws.

Slee said the reaction to new technology is often negative in industries that see it as a threat. For example, the accommodation site "Airbnb" allows users to stay in someone's private home which could be seen as a threat to the hotel industry.

But Slee said that's different because there are so many different options when it comes to hotels, bed and breakfasts or resorts. Licensed taxi drivers, he added, are clearly going to suffer if taxi apps are endorsed. 

"To some extent there's going to be a clear winner and a clear loser when it comes to Uber in a way that with the other technologies it's a little harder to pick out."
 

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