Ireland's biggest taxi app, mytaxi, is rebranding as Free Now from today.
Once known as Hailo, then mytaxi, the rebrand to Free Now across 100 European cities is the result of a change of ownership. The company is now owned by Daimler and BMW.
Free Now is launching a taxi-sharing service called 'Match' as part of the rebrand in Ireland. Match was trialled in Limerick, and has been rolled out to two locations in Dublin, Sandyford Industrial Estate and the Docklands.
"Passengers who are travelling in the same direction can choose the Match service, and the system will match them up and hopefully, they'll get a taxi home in the same direction," said Alan Fox, General Manager of Free Now Ireland. "The benefits of that are that it improves our fleet efficiency, reduces congestion, and emissions, and it also allows us split the fare between passengers."
Customers have sometimes complained about the reliability of the service, and asked if the rebrand will lead to improvements in the service, Mr Fox said the company had reduced the average waiting time by 7%.
"Our average wait time is under three and half minutes, which is a significant improvement on this time last year. We carried 16 million passengers in 2018. In quarter one of this year, we carried 4.5 million passengers which is up 27% year on year. We've seen the number of pre-bookings increase by 20%," Mr Fox said.
"We've reduced the cancellation rate from drivers by 70% during that period. There is a huge amount of work going on in the background in terms of improving our service delivery for passengers. That involves incentivising drivers, and occasionally having to take action where there is some unreliability in the service," he added.
In May, it was announced that mytaxi was introducing a €5 cancellation fee. Mr Fox said the company hopes to never charge the fee to customers, but said it was introduced to bring mytaxi in line with industry, and to try to change the behaviour of some customers at peak hours.
"50% of our passenger cancellations come on Friday and Saturday nights when we're under most pressure," he said.
"What we're trying to do is change behaviour, where three or four people might leave a restaurant at the same time and order four taxis in the hope of increasing their chances of getting one. But what that means is we are excluding three other users from getting those taxis because those taxis are inbound to that location, so by changing that behaviour we hope to free up our fleet to allow many more passengers use it at peak times."
He said Free Now will not offer compensation if drivers cancel on customers. "Any money we get from customer cancellation fees will be reinvested in services like Free Now 'Match' which offer substantial discounts to passengers, so we are not profiting from this at all."
Customers of mytaxi do not need to download a new app for Free Now, and there is no technical or data switch - customers just have to update their app.