So Land Transport Authority (LTA) has just launched its own smartphone app, “[email protected]” to help commuters locate available taxis and to broadcast their location to taxi drivers for street pick ups.
However, this app does not allow users to book a taxi. Instead, it helps you to broadcast your location and see how many available taxis are around the vicinity.
The app shows the number of taxis on the map near the user, but it becomes a question of what constitutes an available taxi. Is the taxi changing shift, attending to a booking or on call? Can I catch that taxi or any of those that I see on screen at all?
Also, do taxi drivers actually use their smartphone to access this app in their taxi? If not, how are they to know there is someone broadcasting their location for taxis to pick them up? Most taxi drivers nowadays have one or two smartphones depending on the third-party apps they sign up for to monitor for taxi bookings.
While taxi drivers may eventually turn to the app for a feel of where to get their next pick up, they would really be incentivised to do so if there is a huge pick up rate by the citizens, and with a great number of them broadcasting a need for a taxi at one time. One or two passengers at a certain vicinity would not compel a taxi driver to drive from one neighbourhood to another, just to have that passenger picked up by another taxi in the area as no booking is involved.
Within hours of the app launch, users of the app have given their review on the app. Some thanked LTA for the app which could help taxi drivers save fuel and get clients more efficiently, while some questioned the practicality of the app.
Regardless of the negativity surrounding the app's practicality, it is very much agreeable that with the information provided by the app, commuters can then better decide whether to continue waiting for a taxi on the street, walk to a location with more available taxis, book a taxi instead, or make alternative transport arrangements.
However, an interesting thing which one can observe is that the total number of taxis shown on the app is definitely nowhere near to the 28,000 taxis touted by LTA. Either that, or the app is just showing the taxis which are available.
Yet, from a 30-minute observation of the app in operation, it is impossible to know because the information presented by the app does not seem to relate to any real-time situation.