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New app drives those taxi blues away

Updated: 2012-03-26 11:07

By Wu Yiyao in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Hailing a taxi on a rainy Friday night is almost mission impossible. If you are in luck, you may get one after a 10-minute wait. The less fortunate end up walking to the metro after much harassment by illegal drivers, rejection from legal cabbies or facing the harsh fact that there are no cabs at all.

Wang Weijian, 37, who studied in Canada before returning to Beijing, like millions of others, has been thinking of a solution involving the mobile phone.

Out of his musings has come YYzhaoche, which literally means shake to hail. It's an application based on a global positioning system that matches a passenger who needs a cab and a nearby driver, dispatched by a car rental company.

New app drives those taxi blues away

"We did not conduct a market survey before we set out to develop YYzhaoche. What pushed us to go forward is the huge gap between supply and need. We had good ideas for a solution. It is time to make the change via mobile Internet applications," said Wang.

Wang's 10-member team started working on the development of the application in late 2011.

It seemed the pain of cab hailing has no boundaries, and the team found great minds think alike in mid-December when Wang and his team were halfway through developing YYzhaoche.

"We read a post on a micro blog saying that in the United States a company called Uber is developing a similar application which provides driving services to passengers via a mobile phone application. The only difference is that they provide private cars while we work with cars from a rental company," said Wang.

Reducing rental times can supplement taxi services and can be a way forward for them, said Wang.

The first version of YYzhaoche was launched on Feb 28. Since then, the team has been updating the application on a daily basis. Now they are proud to present the highlights of the application.

For those who wish to secure a car with a driver at the end of a meeting, a theatre show or any event that brings numerous cab-hailing competitors, users of YYzhaoche can simply run the application by shaking the phone and a request for a car with a driver is sent. While the user organizes his belongings or visits the washroom, the car is driven to the pickup point.

Users can also monitor the car's progress through a display on the phone's screen. When the car arrives, the user receives a message.

"The idea is that we never make passengers wait for the car. It's always the car waiting for people," said Wang.

Wang said the monitor function also secures the safety of passengers and their belongings. The name and contact information of the drivers, details of the cars, times and locations of departure and destination are all recorded by the application and a copy of them is sent to the user's mobile phone via text message.

"In this way, if a passenger loses something in the car, he or she can immediately contact the driver and get it back," said Wang.

Another function is that users can edit their most-used locations by adding landmarks and descriptions to more accurately describe the address, marking places as small as a newsstand.

If drivers are late for an agreed meeting time, a small fine between 10 yuan ($1.60) to 50 yuan will occur and a passenger will receive compensation up to 50 yuan based on the extra time he or she had to wait.

Fee calculation methods have been altered, too.

"At the beginning we charged for car-use time, like normal car rental companies do. However, we found out that the charge method does not fit passengers usage patterns because usually the use is for a short time," said Wang.

As YYzhaoche is an information technology platform bringing cars and passengers together rather than a company that owns cars, its most important assets are the services provided to users. It expects to be profitable through charging an information fee from both passengers and the car rental company.

YYzhaoche is currently undergoing a test period. However, some cannot wait to try it out. By March 9, YYzhaoche witnessed a growing number of users from zero to 1,000 within 10 days. Since the first version of YYzhaoche was launched on Feb 28 it has provided more than 1,500 services to 1,000 passengers. The application has been downloaded 1,600 times.

Wang said his team has already applied for copyright and trade marks for the YYzhaoche service.

It is currently only available in Beijing and functions on the iPhone but may expand to other cities and more application platforms in the future, said Wang.