It’s not for nothing that goCatch last month won the $50,000 top prize at Tech23, a program sponsored in part by the New South Wales government and run by Slattery IT Consulting.
Its iPhone app – which allows passengers to directly find and hire cabs in their vicinity – has been disruptive of the market. The app, launched in June, enables a cabbie to become a free agent, posing an evident threat to cabbie networks. The Taxi Council of Queensland has hit back, saying goCatch passengers could be compromising on their safety, and perhaps service as well, by hiring cabbies directly.
Now, goCatch is responding with what it does best: using technology to develop a ratings system for cabbies that should silence the app’s critics.
The startup told Anthill the rating feature in its app is not the result of battles with taxi groups but had been planned all along. “… improving passenger safety was a key outcome from the app, the rating feature was in the works from the very beginning,” Dana Debbie, a spokesperson, said in an email.
goCatch’s ratings will encourage cabbies to provide high-quality service in such as things as timing, safety, décor and surely courtesy in order to win brownie points, and raise their rankings. For passengers, this is an even bigger boon. They can now choose their cabbies based on the five-star ratings, and assign ratings to make sure only the cream of the drivers rises to the top.
“We’re all used to rating movies, restaurants and holidays, so why not taxi drivers?” asked goCatch co-founder Andrew Campbell.
“We believe good taxi drivers should be recognised. The Internet, and now smart phone apps like goCatch, allow us to make choices based on our own and other people’s experiences. It means customers will gravitate to those drivers who deliver the best service.”
Empowering passengers, eliminating middlemen
Campbell also calls the goCatch experience a “far better” one than the luck-of-the-draw approach from the conventional system. “With goCatch you choose your driver, tap goCatch and use the map to watch the driver track towards you,” he said.
The app is popular with drivers and users. goCatch says “thousands” of passengers and up to a thousand taxi drivers have downloaded goCatch.
The rating feature doesn’t specifically address criticism from NSW Taxi Council CEO Peter Ramshaw that the app allows anyone to pose as a professional cabbie. The ratings system indirectly resolves the problem but here is a thought – goCatch could, perhaps, use technology to authenticate cabbies by, say, examining their safety record, driver’s licenses and perhaps even the registrations to ensure these are indeed authorised taxis. This should further enhance safety and quell critics.