Verifone Inc. just gave a boost to traditional taxis by adding new booking features to its taxi hailing and reserving app, Curb. Through an invitation-only pilot, New York cab drivers will be the first in the nation to try out the app's new functionality. Riders in the Big Apple will now be able to use Curb to set pickup locations, hail cabs immediately or reserve scheduled pickup times. Full launch in more than 60 U.S. cities is expected in the near future.
"The yellow cab, an iconic symbol of New York, is leading the way," said Amos Tamam, Senior Vice President, Global Taxi Systems for Verifone. "Advance booking is the first of many new functions and technologies we're launching with the Curb app, improving service to the public and attracting passengers to the benefits of traditional, licensed taxis."
Verifone has a long history of delivering payment services to licensed taxi companies. In 2006, it partnered with MasterCard Worldwide and became the first to offer MasterCard PayPass Tap & Go contactless payments in taxicabs. In 2007, Verifone was the first company to earn approval for full-scale rollout of electronic payment systems as part of the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission's effort to upgrade city cabs.
It also expanded its in-taxi systems through the acquisition of TaxiTronic Inc., having formed Verifone Transportation Systems as a joint venture with TaxiTronic in 2005. The objective was to equip taxis with integrated fleet management and customer payment systems. Also in 2005, Verifone purchased the Clear Channel Taxi Media business from Clear Channel Outdoor, adding in-cab content on customer-facing POS terminals.
Verifone acquired Curb (formerly TaxiMagic) in 2015. Curb is credited for being the first to launch a mobile web- and short message service, text-based taxi booking app in 2007. Verifone launched its own taxi mobile payment app, Way2ride, in 2013. Together, the Verifone Taxi Systems' arm and Curb reportedly now power over 90,000 taxis globally, including more than 45,000 U.S. cabs equipped with multimedia capabilities.
Uber Technologies Inc., which rolled out its ride-hailing app for limousines in 2010, has since expanded its model to include surge pricing, meaning that when rider use spikes, so does the cost per mile. Despite complaints, the practice continues for riders who access the Uber app in approximately 400 cities worldwide.
However, surge pricing has no place in Verifone's taxi services model, and Verifone said that is unlikely to change. "Whether it's an early morning flight or a late afternoon appointment, advance booking with Curb means New Yorkers will be assured that a taxi will be waiting for them when needed and no longer have to cross their fingers hoping they won't get surge pricing," Tamam noted.
Surge pricing has met with unfavorable reviews from riders in taxi-dense New York. "Verifone's rollout of Curb in New York City is a major step forward in leveling the playing field between taxis and Uber by expanding yellow and green service for all New Yorkers in all boroughs, and ensuring consumers never get 'surge priced,'" said Matthew W. Daus, Esq., and former NYC Taxi & Limousine Commissioner/Chair. "This is a win-win for passengers and the taxicab industry."
Uber continues to attract riders by evolving its nontraditional format that allows just about anyone to become an Uber driver. Also vying for a slice of this space is San Francisco-based Lyft Inc., which in January 2016, closed a $500 million investment, bringing the total amount the company has raised to $1 billion for software that automates ride matching, routing and payments.
And in March, payment platform provider Zooz Inc. began powering global transactions for Israel-based, on-demand taxi service Gett (formerly GetTaxi), which has raised $207 million to date for an app that is available in 57 cities worldwide, including New York, London, Moscow and Tel Aviv.
With increased demand for ride hailing and booking apps, as well as companies willing to provide them, the competition is stiff for Verifone, but the company knows the market well, has the lion's share of the licensed taxi market and continues to innovate by developing solutions like the expanded Curb app, so the disruption of newcomers doesn't seem to have curbed the company's ability to grow in this sector.
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