Philly Taxi Companies Team Up, Use Ride-Hailing-Like Technology to Take on Uber & Lyft

Hundreds of Philadelphia cabs to operate under 215-GET-A-CAB fleet in effort to combat ride-hailing services by that includes a revamped smartphone app, upgraded technology in cars and updated fleet interiors.

What to Know

  • In an effort to combat losses caused by ride-hailing services Uber & Lyft, 3 Philly taxi companies are teaming up.
  • The 1,100 cabs will all be under the 215-GET-A-CAB name and app.
  • Part of the unified strategy includes a revamped smartphone app, upgraded technology in cars & updated fleet interiors.

In the coming weeks, 160 PHL Taxi vehicles and another 225 Freedom Taxi cars will seemingly disappear from Philadelphia's streets.

The two companies, however, are carrying on – despite the onslaught of competition Uber and Lyft bring – by combining their existing fleet with the over 700 cars operated by 215-GET-A-CAB as part of a just-announced partnership.

Once competitors engaged in a healthy rivalry, PHL, Freedom and Get-a-Cab leadership had a Kumbaya moment that led to a strategic venture among the three.

Around the New Year, all of the nearly 1,100 cabs will operate under the Get-A-Cab branding, part of the unified strategy among the three firms that also includes a revamped smartphone app, upgraded technology in cars and updated fleet interiors, as well as shared services for drivers.

"When you have an unfettered or unlimited fleet like Uber or Lyft, which could have 40,000 cars at any given time, how do you compete?," Freedom owner Everett Abitbol asked during an exclusive interview with the Business Journal earlier this month. "And the way you compete is by density."

No medallions changed hands, though regardless of owner, all 1,100 cabs will now be accessible through Get-a-Cab's app — a crucial update that realigns local taxis' customer-facing tech with Uber and Lyft — and by dialing any of the numbers previously associated with the three companies.

The merger of sorts came together over the past six months. Abitbol, along with members of the Sterin and Friedman families who own Get-a-Cab, sorted out details during Saturday morning coffee strolls that began with a stop at Old City's Cafe Olé.

"We had to learn to trust one another and understand that we all have common goals and know that working together is the best way forward," said Danielle Friedman, general counsel for Get-a-Cab.

"The abilities of all of us together, far surpassed the ability of any one of us," Abitbol said.

As the owner of the smaller number of cars, he incurred the approximately $400,000 cost, or $1,000 each, to repaint and repair his fleet to Get-a-Cab vehicles.

Aside from the paint jobs, customers may have already started to notice some of other changes. Taxis have had partitions removed and cameras installed, offering an experience more in line with ride-hailing companies, referred to as transportation network companies, or TNCs, in legislation.

Tablets have replaced the traditional meter and payment systems, allowing cab operators to eliminate time spent on equipment training. The tech also lets passengers charge their phones while en route, and monitor total cost in real time – a change from the old meters, which only showed the full fare once at the destination. 

Other tech changes mirror the convenience consumers have already seen from TNCs, like splitting fares and pooling rides, and a user-friendly app that saves payment information and has a real-time map of nearby available cabs. For passengers already in a Get-a-Cab car, they can use the Pair & Pay function to sync with the app.

"With density, we could be really impactful," Abitbol said. "It translates the most on the app. When you move that pin around the map and you put a pin anywhere and [a taxi] is a minute away."

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For more business news, visit the Philadelphia Business Journal.

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