Cabcom is one of our pet projects. As any Brooklynite will attest, there can be a host of issues trying to reach a car service in the borough — busy signals, garbled cellular connections, unknown cross streets, calling in a loud venue, the freezing cold — and the list goes on.
When most riders have smartphones in their pockets, why use voice to order a car?
Accordingly, we devised an SMS based platform where a rider can text their address to the dispatcher. The request pops up on the screen of the car service dispatcher, who can click to see the location, grab the cross streets. Once a car is secured, the dispatcher can reply to the customer, usually with a message akin to "5 minutes."
We designed and built a beautiful informational website, and put our minds to test it.
We tested the platform in a few car services. It never gained traction because car services simply will not port their phone number to us, which would enable SMS replies. It would require them to introduce a new phone number for their business, and from their prospective, the phone number is everything. Think "Dial7s."
What about Uber or Taxi Magic?
Yes, we know about them. NYC is bit complicated. There are different livery classes. The class Uber goes after are strict livery, what we in NYC call "black cabs." Uber recruits and trains these drivers, puts them on the road.
We were going after what is called a "community car service," which are small independently run businesses, usually occupying a neighborhood store front. According the Taxi and Limo Commission, there are ~7,800 black cabs, but about 23,000 community car service cars. We thought that was pretty compelling — and that we could build a product to modernize the car services. And so was our financial model.
We're still toying around with some ideas of what to do next, but the political, legal and regulatory environment around livery transport is a greater obstacle than the technology.