Authorities in Beijing, China, are considering a foray into the taxi mobile app space, according to an unnamed official who revealed plans for a unified platform that would work with private companies’ services.
The Beijing Times reports (via Marbridge) that the unnamed government worker said that the unified platform would operate much like popular apps that are used in the city — which include Didi Dache, Yaoyao Zhaoche, Dudu Jiaoche and Yida Chuxin. The new service would differ on one key area, however, ‘tips’.
The charging — or voluntary – payment of additional fees for taxi fares is technically illegal in the city since it involves negotiation. In addition to leaking plans to launch a service, the source also claimed the transport department will “clean up” the city’s taxi app services. While no specific detail was given, it is fair to assume that the additional fees will be a primary area of focus.
It is suggested by the Beijing Times that one-third of the city’s taxi drivers use taxi app services to supplement their business, but the launch of a state-led platform — while unified with third-party services — may result in a loss of business for other services. Indeed, the source suggests that a number of the more peripheral players will be forced out of the market.
The spokesman for the Beijing municipal commission of transport previously went on record with support for cab-booking services in the city, but the industry certainly looks like it will be regulated, if not disrupted by a new entrant.
Didi Diche, a service that launched in September 2012 and serves the Beijing area, has attracted attention of late with rumors suggesting that it attracted investment from Chinese Internet giant Tencent last month. The company denied the speculation, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise since Alibaba — another Chinese Web titan — invested an estimated $1 million in rival service Kuaidi Dache this month.
While Kuaidi Dache is yet to roll out in Beijing — a move that is planned for later in the year — it has already amassed 300,000 users and 30,000 drivers, the combination of which sees it process 20,000 transactions each day.
US startup Uber, the poster-boy of the taxi app industry, finally expanded into Asia via Singapore in January of this year. It has long been linked with a move into Japan but, for now, it is still to launch in any other markets in the continent.
CEO Travis Kalanick previously said Uber would launch in Asia’s “obvious” cities, but it remains unclear if China figures among its initial targets.