What happens when navigation giant TomTom enters the taxi-hailing app space? Oh wait, it just did

What happens when navigation giant TomTom enters the taxi-hailing app space? Oh wait, it just did

TomTom, the major Dutch manufacturer of navigation systems and software, seems destined to make life difficult for a host of startups focused on making life easier for people in need of convenient ways to hail and pay for taxis in Europe.

There is definitely a market for that kind of service, hence why so many providers are mushrooming all across mainland Europe and the UK – some of the more familiar names in the space include – some venture-backed – companies such as Hailo (earlier coverage), Click A Taxi (earlier coverage) GetTaxi, myTaxi, ubiCabs, Taxi.eu, TaxiZapp and, sure enough, Uber (more on that below).

And hence why publicly-listed TomTom appears to be rather silently entering the space as well. Dutch media are reporting that the navigation systems juggernaut has kicked off a trial in Dutch capital Amsterdam to let restaurant visitors, hotel guests and whatnot easily order a taxi from a mini-kiosk provided on-site.

A service dubbed Taxi Butler running on the little machine – pictured above – would take care of the booking of the ride, while a service called Taxi Assistant – pictured below – would take care of things at the receiving end.

More specifically, Taxi Assistant would enable taxi drivers to instantly receive booking requests and itinerary information on his or her TomTom navigation system. As De Telegraaf points out, many a taxi driver uses those.

The Next Web has learned that TomTom aims to expand the service to more cities and markets in the near future if the trial works out well, and that it will soon launch mobile smartphone apps that would let any consumer order a taxi wherever they are, no physical kiosk presence required.

That would certainly make things more interesting and should put nimbler competitors like Hailo and Uber on alert.

Sure, Uber isn’t really a taxi-booking service company … yet. Originally a private-car ordering service provider only, Uber is reportedly in the early stages of rolling out a taxi-hailing app to complement its current offering.

That’s interesting, because Uber wants to claims its stake in Europe as fast as possible, too. Coincidentally, the company just hired a Dutchman, former Booking.com CEO Kees Koolen, as its new COO.

That’s not the only thing that’s interesting, by the way.

You see, The Netherlands already boasts a number of local taxi-hailing apps and service providers, such as TXXI, Cabster and/or Taxi.nl.

Here’s what’s fascinating about the former app, TXXI: behind it is a company called NewToast, which has Steven Blom as a co-founder.

The name of the TomTom spokesperson who apparently briefed Dutch media about the new service?

That’s right: Steven Blom.

Does that mean TomTom has partnered with NewToast, or perhaps outright acquired the startup without disclosing the move publicly? We’ve asked TomTom, but they haven’t responded to our requests for comment.

There are two things that suggest TomTom acquired the makers of the TXXI app, however, so bear with us:

Doesn’t Blom look exactly like the person pictured in the back of the car here?

And doesn’t the other NewToast co-founder, Otto Ruys, look exactly like the person pictured in the front of the car here, judging by the photo on his Twitter account?

Definitely makes us believe TomTom purchased NewToast to let its co-founders run a team poised to make an interesting move in the taxi-hailing app space.

It would certainly make integrating such a service into its own backend systems a lot easier for TomTom, and also fuels our belief that the navigation systems company plans to roll the service out more broadly in the near future.

We’ll keep tracking this story as it unfolds, so stay tuned.

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