Beijing standardises taxi apps for mobile devices

Travellers looking to hail taxis faster now have four government-approved mobile apps to help them

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 4:45pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 6:11pm

Getting a taxi just became slightly easier in Beijing, as the city government has finally legalised four official apps that will allow hurried citizens to find a cab with just a few swipes on their mobile device.

The four apps, Yida Dache, Yibu Jiaoche, Yaoyao Dache and Didi Dache, were originally made by third-party developers, but have now been standardised and made available for download on 96106, a website named after the city government's taxi service phone number.

All four apps, which are currently only available for Android phones, allow users to book a taxi for a fee of five to six yuan (HK$6-8), depending on whether the taxi is booked on the spot or four hours in advance.

Aside from cosmetic differences, the apps are all quite similar, Tech in Asia reported, adding that these four apps were Beijing transportation department approved options for users, potentially discouraging copycat apps from appearing on the Chinese iOS and Google Play stores.

This effort at standardisation comes as a means to regulate the often chaotic market for book-a-taxi apps that has emerged in China’s top tier cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Many of these apps, which boast hefty fees and even bidding systems that allow users to find a taxi faster if they pay extra money, have come under fire from local governments.

In May, Shanghai authorities banned monetised taxi apps and Beijing’s transportation department followed suit afterwards, only to reveal a government-backed app a month later that was criticised for requiring users to book their taxis four to 15 hours in advance.

The standardisation of the city’s four new apps, which do not explicitly require advance booking, may be a way of rectifying this error. According to Beijing transportation department authorities, other monetised book-a-taxi apps will no longer be allowed to legally operate their services within the city limits, although free taxi apps will be unaffected.

Hailing taxis and negotiating appropriate fares can be difficult in Beijing, and app monitoring may be a part of the city’s recent push to control taxi companies. On August 15, the Beijing transportation department announced that it would be implementing a new “performance assessment system” for taxi companies, assessing various factors such as traffic violation rates. Companies that failed the assessment three years in a row would have their licences revoked, The Beijing Times reported.