What If Taxi Cabs Were Like Search Engine Ads?

Taxi Me

I just finished playing around with this interesting site featured on Startup Ottawa and created by Jordan Boesch called Taxi Me.

Taxi Me is a neat tool that mashes up Google Maps with cab fare estimation to let you estimate the cost of a cab ride from point A to point B. Nice business model as well – local cab companies simply pay a monthly fee for ad placement in one of three listings.

Taxi Me as a Decision Tool

After playing around with it a bit, it got me thinking: why would I need to use this site in a real world situation?

With cab fares typically being standardized by the city, Taxi Me in its current form allows me to decide whether I should:

  • Take a taxi OR a bus (or other public transportation)
  • Take a taxi OR drive
  • Take a taxi OR walk, run, bike, hitchhike
  • Just stay put!

In other words, TaxiMe helps answer the question: “Is taking a taxi an economical solution to my current transportation problem?” An important question for many, and kudos to Jordan for creating such a slick tool to address it.

So now that I’m taking a taxi, which one should I call? Does it even matter?

In general, it usually doesn’t matter which company you call – they’re all kind of the same really.  But should it?  I think yes!

When you think about it, a cab ride is really just a commodity.  It’s a means to an end, and with rates being fixed by the city there leaves little room for standouts and innovators in the taxi industry.

So I was thinking, wouldn’t it be nice if there was an online service to broker and auction off cab rides? Kind of an online market for cab rides and maybe even other commodity-like services.

It would operate similar to the way Google AdWords auctions off ad positions on search engine results pages.  A ride seeker would enter start and destination points (the query) just like they do with Taxi Me, and then local taxi companies would compete for a position in the listings (and therefore the fare) based on three factors:

  1. their bid for the fare
  2. the availability of a cab at the time requested
  3. an independently assessed “quality score” of the cab company (perhaps based on user reviews)

Has this already been done?  Could it be done or is the industry too over-regulated to get something like this off the ground? Let me know your thoughts.

About John Somerton

John Somerton is a web marketing strategist and creator of the Keyword Unity methodology for developing search engine marketing strategy. He lives in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the write-up! I’m glad you found it useful.

    I think that it would be interesting if multiple cab companies paid for the same for spots and users would vote to see who got the top spot. That way it would be the most recommended and not a “pay your way to the top” solution.

    Even though it would be an interesting idea, I don’t think it would fly because, like you said, a cab is just a cab to people.

    Your idea about the auction for cab rides is interesting but I think we’re too regulated here. When you said that it immediately reminded me of Mexico – since you can usually debate costs with your cabby.

  2. John Somerton says:

    Hey Jordan, thanks for stopping by!

    Interesting idea on including user voting as part of the positioning algorithm…runs the risk of people gaming the system though unless it was really sophisticated. Maybe “pay your way to the top” is the way to go!

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