A new mobile app called Maaxi could help London's black cab drivers fight off competition from the likes of Uber, Hailo and other car pickup services.
The app, available on iOs and Android, is similar to Google Maps or Citymapper but it also allows people to find travellers going in the same direction and share a taxi with them.
Maaxi, built by a London startup based out of Innovation Warehouse in Farringdon, sends pickup jobs to nearby black cab drivers who can then decide to accept or reject them.
Rides will be slightly more expensive overall, enabling black cab drivers to earn more money, while also cutting each passenger’s individual fare.
On its website, the startup writes: “Maaxi developed and owns proprietary mapping and data analytics technology which allows it to perform distributed real-time computation to process on its servers on Amazon Web Services millions of concurrent transport-related data streams per second to accomplish unprecedented journey planning and taxi sharing services.”
The app has been endorsed by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) and former London Mayor Ken Livingstone.
Maaxi allows rides to be either end-to-end in a black cab, or it combines Transport for London (TfL) and National Rail real-time timetables for buses and trains with black cabs to fill gaps in the “last mile” of many public transport journeys in London. In addition, it can arrange taxi jobs to be "daisy-chained", so that drivers can continually pick up and drop off passengers as they go, rather than transporting one group at a time.
Maaxi aims to make a profit by taking a cut of the fee for shared rides, but not those of passengers travelling alone. Users are provided with a quoted fee before entering the cab, which is based on earlier taxi journeys along a similar route.
The company is funded by financier Nathaniel Rothschild, who explained why he is backing the startup in an article in business newspaper CityAM this week.
Approximately 1,500 black cab drivers have signed up to try the app when it launches in a few weeks time.
Uber, which has been targeted by black cab drivers in protects in recent months, set up its own shared-trip service called UberPool last month but it’s currently only available in San Francisco.
There has also been tension between the LTDA and Hailo, after the app added private hire vehicles.
The head of the LTDA, Steve McNamara, told the BBC he had been assured Maaxi would not do the same.
"[This was] the major concern that the taxi trade had, following what can only be described as the sell-out by Hailo, who went to the dark side," said McNamara. "Nat Rothschild has personally assured the taxi trade that this is a black cab app and we're very excited by it. We actually think it could be a real game changer."