The Singapore government is known for its remarkable efficiency. But it’s also known for being incredibly meddlesome. Case in point: fresh after announcing a new set of regulations governing taxi apps, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) told the world that it too wants to launch a taxi app.
Except that the app, called Taxi-Taxi@SG, won’t actually allow you to book a cab. Instead, what it purports to do is tell commuters who are hailing for a ride where all the taxis are. “With this information, commuters can 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 alternate transport arrangements,” said LTA in a statement. Users can also broadcast their current location to some 28,000 taxis registered in Singapore.
The stupidity of the app is apparent once you start trying to download it. Finding it on the app store is really hard. I searched “taxi taxi” on iTunes and it came out ninth on the search results page – after Grabtaxi, Easy Taxi, the taxi apps by Comfort and SMRT, and a bunch of taxi games. Android user? You’re gonna have an even harder time finding it. This is the results page when I typed “taxi-taxi@SG” on Google Play:
Can’t. Find. It.
Suppose you succeed in the treasure hunt and download the app onto your phone. How useful is it? Not much.
Loading it brings you to a screen that shows you where the nearby taxis are. That’s about it. There isn’t any immediate feedback after I press the button to broadcast my location. No taxis swooped down to rescue me. While it’s nice that I can see whether there are cabs congregating around the taxi stands, the information itself isn’t useful because whether I can get a ride depends on how long the queue is – and that data isn’t so easy to obtain.
I simply do not foresee enough consumers downloading the app and using it regularly to the point that it becomes useful for taxi drivers to gauge demand. And besides, apps like Uber and Grabtaxi are already doing that very well.
In other words: this is another idea that looks good on paper, but doesn’t work out in reality. Taxi booking apps, on the other hand, solve real problems: getting commuters a cab fast, and giving taxi drivers a means to make more money. Two-sided platforms are really difficult to execute well. It involves a lot of know-how in customer acquisition and marketing in a crowded app environment. This is something that’s best left to the private sector.
LTA should put taxpayer’s money to better use. You can download this app on iOS and Android now, but I’m deleting mine.
Water taxis are apparently a thing now.
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