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Cabulous Tries to Alleviate Hassle of Getting a Cab in SF

Because I'm that girl who's chronically late for absolutely everything, I'm a cab driver's dream--but only when I have to stand on a busy street corner to get one. I live in fear of calling cab dispatchers, who always seem to hang up on me as soon as I rattle off my street address and phone number. What gives?

This is where the new, free iPhone app Cabulous swoops in to save my day. Download this thing and it instantly displays all the cabs in your area, tracking them in real time. Touch the little colored car (different colors mean different cab companies) nearest to you on San Francisco's grid and that driver is guaranteed to fetch you right where you stand. Users can also access the Cabulous service directly from the website. "It's like having a fleet of personal drivers," says John Wolpert, CEO of Upstart Mobile, the company that developed the Cabulous smart phone app.

SF Green Cab (the Prius-only cab fleet) is already fully in on this Cabulous revolution and two more cab companies are about to join, thereby tripling the number of cab drivers available. Not only does it save you a bundle of time and stress, but it lets cab drivers ditch their costly dispatch services and actually get a cut from their loyalty to Cabulous. It's a pretty sweet deal that is set to go nationwide later this year. I caught up with Tal Flanchraych, the Vice President of Marketing at Cabulous to lay down what's best about their new app.

What's the average time it takes for a cab to get to their riders? Is it faster than calling a dispatcher?
It's much faster than calling a dispatcher in the sense that before you can even order a cab, you have to find a quiet place to make a phone call (if you're out), get the phone number for a cab company (if you don't already have one), call them, often wait on hold - with bad elevator music, spend a few minutes letting them know where you are and where you're going, wait for them to dispatch your cab, and then hope your cab arrives when they say it will. When you're already running late or you're tired/drunk/what have you, it's pretty nice - and much less painful - to be able to skip the pesky phone call and just hail a cab instantly with a touch. And there's no uncertainty about your cab being late, since you always know exactly where he is.

Do you think this will affect the future of dispatching jobs in a real way?
We're looking to compliment dispatch, not replace it - we think there's room in this industry without pushing anyone out of the way. We don't do advance booking - if you need to schedule a cab in three hours to go to the airport, we can't help you. But if you're running late to dinner on a Friday night (like everyone else in the city), it's easier to just see where available cabs are around you and hail one immediately vs. calling an overwhelmed dispatcher who has to put you on hold for 15 minutes.

One thing we're currently building and giving out for free to encourage cab companies to get our devices in their cars is a Cabulous web map (just like the one on Cabulous.com) tailored towards a company's dispatchers. Currently, dispatchers at most companies use a radio or the phone to find out which drivers are near any given passenger that calls in, which can be slow and inefficient. With our dispatch service, any dispatcher will be able to see where all their company's cars are on the map and send them fares through Cabulous - which means faster dispatch and less angry passengers being put on hold. One thing we eventually want to do is give dispatchers the ability to create confirmation numbers for passengers, who can then go on Cabulous.com and visually track the cab that they ordered.

So far, how many downloads have you had in SF, by drivers and passengers respectively?
We have 6,000 passenger downloads in San Francisco alone (with about 500 or so outside of San Francisco). We have over 250 licensed taxi drivers in San Francisco who have not only downloaded the app but verified their identities and created an account - and we're getting more signups every day. You can track new driver signups at twitter.com/CabulousApp.