Tom Blackie, head of automotive at RealVNC, on how ‘connected cabs’ could give traditional taxi firms a competitive edge over new market entrants and give fleet managers greater control over their vehicles
Traditional taxi operators are facing a serious challenge as companies like Uber disrupt their long-standing business model.
To illustrate how serious this is, San Francisco’s biggest cab firm Yellow Cab were recently forced to file for bankruptcy protection and Uber drivers outnumber London’s traditional cabbies almost two to one.
Established firms will feel the pain if they don’t innovate by improving the efficiency of their operation and offer compelling customer service.
Yet the connectivity revolution that is challenging the traditional taxi model offers the innovation they need to create a competitive advantage.
Research shows that the younger generation increasingly prioritises ‘consumer experience’ in transport, and the experience that they want is on-the-road connectivity.
To survive and prosper, traditional taxi fleets must focus on offering a connected ‘premium experience’ as a new unique selling proposition, while improving fleet efficiency at the same time.
A pioneering UK company, Frazer-Nash Research, have taken on this challenge with their innovative London Metrocabs.
Using our screen-sharing software, they have created a new customer differentiator, building a generation of ‘connected cabs’ that will allow passengers to link their smartphones to the taxi, and stream films, music, emails and apps to backseat screens.
Metrocabs can reduce customer journey times by enabling drivers to connect car and smartphone to get real-time traffic or weather updates through the dashboard.
Using the same technology, they also feedback telematics information about the taxi fleet to a service centre to monitor the performance and status of the vehicles in order to maximize fleet uptime.
Future fleets could even allow passengers to ‘remote in’ to their office PCs from backseat screens, transforming a taxi into a mobile office.
In-cab connectivity also offers the possibility of giving passengers location-based adverts for nearby hotels or restaurants, further improving the travel experience and creating a new revenue stream for commercial fleets.
The real-time vehicle connectivity offers a potentially powerful model for the industry to follow.
One way for traditional taxi firms to compete with cut-price alternatives is to deliver an array of technologies that people expect at home and in the office, providing a rich journey experience than the competition cannot offer.