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E-hailing taxi app becomes popular in large cities

(Global Times)

08:54, April 28, 2013

Everyone who lives in a big city in China knows that getting a taxi is harder these days, but waving one down in the street is no longer the only option. With "e-hailing" apps, a taxi can be secured within several minutes by simply sending a message from a phone.

Wang Dapeng, a 30-year-old bank employee in Beijing, decided to try one of these taxi apps when he needed to take his grandmother to the railway station Tuesday.

"I found many Beijing taxi drivers using such apps. The taxi arrived downstairs five minutes after I tapped in my request in the software, as arranged. Without the app, I might have needed to keep my grandma waiting for half an hour on the street," he said.

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The difficulties of getting a taxi have become a headache for people in large cities like Beijing, so the e-hailing apps have grabbed a large user base in a very short time.

At least one-third of the 68,000 taxis in Beijing have started using "e-hailing" apps since they became available in early 2012. In other major cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the apps are also gaining in popularity.

Most of the apps work the same way. After a client sends a request to the app - by tapping in the pick-up location and the destination, or by sending a voice message - the app will use GPS to locate nearby taxis. The driver who responds the quickest gets the fare.

The app used by Wang, Didi Taxi, has accumulated over 2 million users in seven cities since it was launched in September last year. In Beijing, its largest market, over 20,000 taxi drivers and 1 million passengers are using the software, Zhuo Ran, marketing director for Didi Taxi, told the Global Times.

Zhao Shuhua, a Beijing taxi driver, uses five e-hailing apps. He keeps a smartphone and a tablet PC in his car, to take advantage of them.

"I've used these apps for three months, and they have gotten me more than 100 deals," said Zhao, adding that these apps have also greatly reduced the time he spends driving around looking for fares.

Given the huge demand, many technology startups have been looking into the sector. At present there are more than 30 e-hailing apps available and the number is still climbing.

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