New cab-hailing app NexTaxi challenges Bay Area ride services

The world of taxi-hailing technology welcomed another new app on Monday, a reminder to rogue hire-a-car services such as Uber that the old yellow taxi cab is still alive and well.

NexTaxi, an app from from Arizona-based dispatch company Universal TransWare, officially launched in about 50 cities. NexTaxi is an on-demand hailing app for city taxi fleets, allowing passengers to call a cab, track the car’s arrival and communicate with the driver, all from a smartphone. Co-founders Steven Juliver and Earl Epstein said the app would be in San Jose cabs in the coming weeks, with San Francisco to follow.

The app is available for Android, with the iOS version coming soon, they said.

Unlike Uber, Sidecar and Lyft, the big Bay Area hire-a-car services, NexTaxi contracts directly with city cab fleets. Fleet operators agree to use the app technology in their cars as another tool for drivers to get fares.

NexTaxi comes to market few years behind Bay Area companies Flywheel and Taxi Magic, which also have similar apps that let riders e-hail a cab rather than stand on the street corner waiting for one to drive by. One notable difference between these apps and startup ride-sharing services like Sidecar — they haven’t raised the ire of public regulator agencies, because they sell only their technology, and not the actual drivers and cars.

Something is different about NexTaxi, though — it doesn’t tack on any extra charges. Passengers pay the same metered fare they would if they hailed the cab on the street. Juliver said the company makes money through software sales to the cab fleets. Flywheel, a San Francisco company which is now in more than 1,000 cabs in the Bay Area, charges riders an extra 60 cents and tacks on a 20 percent tip.

NexTaxi could do well in the Bay Area, where most riders have a smartphone and would prefer to use an app to find a taxi. Flywheel has exploded in popularity since it rebuilt its app technology and rebranded itself last year. But the idea of taking city cabs is still a turnoff to passengers want not just better technology to hail cabs but also an alternative to what many say are dirty city taxis and rude and unreliable drivers. For instance, San Francisco’s Yellow Cab is notorious for not showing up for scheduled pickups; Uber’s clean and quiet rides are a respite to the aggressive driving of some city cab drivers.

Epstein said NexTaxi can help city cabs do their jobs better. His company trains drivers how provide better customer service and works with fleets to upgrade their dispatch systems. He said e-hail apps shouldn’t be seen as a way to squash the traditional cab systems that have been around for decades, but as a resource to help the industry catch up with tech-savvy passengers who are quickly losing patience with outdated cab services.

Heather Somerville Heather Somerville (210 Posts)

Heather Somerville is a business reporter covering venture capital and startups for the Bay Area News Group.