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Taxi industry at war with mobile app developers over cab booking

An independent taxi app maker has rejected claims by the taxi industry that its mobile app is not safe and should be banned.

The NSW Taxi Council today launched an ad campaign telling consumers to avoid independent apps like goCatch which assist users in booking taxis. The campaign will run during the Christmas and New Year's holiday period and includes ads on buses and the backs of taxis.

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NSW Council CEO John Bowe suggested that the independent apps be banned altogether.

"Other countries around the world have banned 'rogue apps' or forced them to operate within the regulations," he said. "In Australia, these apps have been allowed to operate freely. This is unacceptable and has the potential to undermine the taxi industry's reputation as the safest mode of public transport."

"The Taxi Council has been asking the Government for several years to take steps to ensure that all taxi bookings be covered by the same regulations," a Council spokesman said. "To date it hasn't happened."

The creators of goCatch lashed back, saying their app is safer than the traditional way of booking cabs.

The goCatch app gives passengers the driver's name and mobile number upon a booking, said goCatch co-founder Andrew Campbell. "Furthermore, we've already advised the Taxi Council directly that we keep a location-based data record of every job," he said.

"When you book a cab the old-fashioned way, you get none of that -- you don't know who the driver is and you don't know when they'll turn up," Campbell said. "If you ever lose something in a cab, the driver is only a phone call away -- much easier than trying to track them down through a complicated network system."

The Council supported 10 other Sydney booking apps endorsed by Crime Stoppers. The apps are available to download at www.nswtaxi.org.au and include: mTaxi, Silver Service, iCabSydney, iCabAirport, iCabPrestige, St George Elite, St George Diamond, RSL, Manly and Legion.

Crime Stoppers gathers information from the community to fight and prevent crime. Its board includes stakeholders from police and government in each state and territory, the Australian Federal Police and Australian Government, citizens and the media.

Bowe said the problem with "rogue apps" is that they don't follow NSW government laws and regulations.

"Taxi networks come under the NSW Government's laws," Bowe said. "They guarantee that passengers receive an accredited driver in a compliant vehicle; that the journey is monitored by security cameras and GPS; that complaints can be investigated and responded to; and that lost property can be tracked."

"Increasingly, there are complaints from passengers which cannot be investigated because there is no record the journey ever took place," Bowe said.

But goCatch's Campbell said he believes the taxi industry has rejected its app because it views it as a business threat.

"The industry doesn't like us because we've had the temerity to create something new and something popular," he said.

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia


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