“Anything you can do, I can do better.” Such is the attitude behind the French government, which announced Le.Taxi, a new Uber-like service for consumers to order, pay, and rate a taxi. The app, currently in private beta, comes on top of existing mobile Taxi apps that have been released by taxi companies (WeCab, by G7) as well as services offered by third party apps like eCab, which is available in 10 cities to date.
Le.Taxi is the fruit of the Loi Thévenoud, enacted October 2014, providing a legal framework to resolve the conflict between Taxi’s and VTC (i.e: Uber drivers). While much of the law laid down a framework that promised that Uber would never disappear, recent conflicts with Uber surrounding its peer-to-peer UberPOP service have seen an increase in Uber/Taxi conflict. After two of its French executives were arrested and put on trial, Uber has recently reported that several speaking engagements in France were cancelled after local taxi authorities threatened to protest the conference (i.e: block the entrance with their cars) if Uber spoke at the event.
On their website, Le.Taxi points to the 50,000 potential Taxi drivers, and they are focusing on the advantage for independent taxi drivers to use the service as well. Their hope is that, by providing the same level of access to Taxis as consumers have to VTC drivers today – whether through Uber, SnapCar, Chauffeur Privé, LeCab or others – that users will begin ordering taxis the same way they are using Uber today. The Silicon Valley would have a lot to say about government-driven consumer applications, as well as about the need for innovation to be 10x better than the standard (set down by Uber); however, I’m not sure that Le.Taxi’s adoption will depend upon consumer interest.
Taxi drivers may be reluctant to have data about their distance, payment, and customers in the hands of the government. Currently in France, Taxi drivers’ routing equipment, which determines their distance and, thus, the price of their fair, is not directly connected to the French Government (contrary to, say, Berlin, according to BFMTV).
I’m dubious of the willingness of taxi drivers to adopt a government-developed taxi app, given that much of the discontent with the Taxi system in France has been due to their unwillingness to accept debit card payment (although that will change, due to a new law put in place this year requiring all taxi’s to have a working credit card machine), their reputation for being unfriendly (i.e: low rating), and their willingness to take longer routes to make customers pay more.