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Taxi drivers sought to sign up to new Uber-style app

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TAXI drivers in Jersey could see their earnings rise if they start using a new Uber-style booking app, according to its Island-based creators.

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Goto is calling for drivers to sign up to the new platform ahead of launching an advertising campaign aimed at passengers next month.

The software is the brainchild of a team of five led by technology expert Robbie Andrews, who hopes to roll out Goto around the world eventually, as a rival to apps such as Uber and Lyft – but without the controversy their business model has caused.

Mr Andrews said: ‘We realised the way Uber and others move into territories is that they sidestep the existing companies and they try and get scale before only then adding in the legalities. It does work for them in places where existing businesses aren’t organised.

‘It means they get a lion’s share of the customer base. But there have been other jurisdictions where there’s been fight back from the industry and the public over the uncertainty of who’s driving them.’

Goto is signing up licensed drivers, and requiring proof of their credentials, on a platform where customers can book and pay for their ride within the app, and where drivers pay a set commission rather than a monthly fee.

Mr Andrews hopes that having one Island-wide app will put an end to customers trying multiple booking platforms without any certainty.

‘There are a couple of other apps out there but customers need to try their luck. You have to submit your request on one, wait a few minutes, then cancel it or leave it running and try another one. It doesn’t make sense.’

He says he has been working with the authorities, as well as taxi drivers and operators, to understand their needs. Research began three years ago, with work on the app getting under way at the start of this year.

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‘The plan is to advertise for drivers to sign up with us so they’re ready when we launch the passenger app on 7 December. We hope to have at least 5,000 users in the first month and a half, and to be able to facilitate that we need at least 50 drivers to be active. The more drivers we have, the better the experience will be for the passengers.’

Goto is already attracting attention from a number of UK towns as well as further afield, including in parts of the Caribbean. The aim is that the one app will work in all those locations.

Mr Andrews believes drivers will earn more, as the technology uses an algorithm to maximise the amount of time drivers are out on the road, rather than waiting for their next fare. That in turn means customers should get a taxi faster.

Tony Moretta, the chief executive of Digital Jersey, says the key to success for the Island’s taxi industry is for them all to work more closely together.

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He said: ‘When I came here, I thought there were three ways that technology could be used to improve transport.

‘First of all, mobile parking. That is now in and is used a lot. Secondly, contactless cards and ApplePay on buses. We have that now. The disappointing area has been taxis. There are huge benefits for everyone. As a passenger, you can hail a taxi easily and you can pay for it online. There are also benefits for the taxi drivers.’

Mr Moretta says that a number of different apps have been developed, whereas success relies on something more joined-up.

‘You would need a lot of taxis using it. Taxi apps are the future and in an ideal world we would use a home-grown company to develop it.

‘I appreciate we have different taxi companies but wouldn’t it be great if we had a common platform in the form of a single app? It would be great for tourists and business-people.’

However, it does not appear that Mr Moretta’s wish for cooperation is likely to come true soon.

Paul Tostevin from the Jersey Taxi Drivers Association expressed concern that passengers would be charged different rates based on whether the vehicle was a rank vehicle or working for a private hire company, as each have their own tariffs.

He said: ‘If you’re a rank driver, you’ll be paid rank rates including surcharges for evening and holiday work. If you’re a private hire driver, you’ll be paid based on the fare charged by your dispatcher. The customer will be charged different fares for the same journey using this app depending on which taxi cab company the driver works for.’

Mr Tostevin added that using the app would not give customers the option of paying by cash, saying: ‘I don’t see the point in it.’

Gary Burgess

By Gary Burgess
Reporter

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