Booking a cab is getting easier for passengers thanks to the advent of apps that let you book your cab straight from your smartphone. But implementing those apps and booking systems isn't always the easiest—or most affordable—option for taxi companies.
A team of developers in Berlin and London is trying to change that. Last month, the software startup T Dispatch released the code for its taxi booking app. The app is an add-on to T Dispatch's web-based dispatch system and driver apps for iOS/Android devices, and is designed to make it easier and more affordable for taxi and chauffeur companies of all sizes to implement a customized app of their own.
I got more insight from CTO Tiago Pita on how they got started and why it was important to release their code.
Give us a little background on T Dispatch.
T Dispatch builds cutting edge dispatch software for passenger transport providers, such as taxi and chauffeur companies. We've developed a web-based system for fleet management, an advanced app for drivers and open source booking platforms.
The company is based in Berlin & London. We've grown from three to 20 employees in just one year, with substantial seed investment behind us.
Our mission is to create a universal platform for transport services using the latest technologies. We provide the best tools and allow providers to partner up with each other and with known brands, paving the way for a global, distributed fleet network.
How did you come up with the idea for the software?
The founders of T Dispatch had worked closely with cab offices in London when they developed Tick Tock Taxi—the UK's first virtual fleet cab booking platform. We were introduced to all aspects of the industry; more specifically, the taxi dispatch systems used. There were recurring problems with many of the cab offices we visited and spoke to. Disgruntled with their current booking dispatch systems or their inability to afford one at all, we took note.
We wanted to offer a premium dispatch system to every cab office, no matter the size of the fleet. Our web-based booking dispatch system is unique to the industry because it's built in the cloud and is hardware free—meaning no installation, no setup fees and no need to buy dedicated devices.
How is T Dispatch different from other dispatch software?
T Dispatch is 100% focused on technology. We prioritise developing the most advanced features and implementing the latest technologies rather than spending time and money on sales and marketing.
Moreover, we're perfectionists when it comes to providing the best user experience; making sure that every screen is self explanatory and every button intuitively placed. We also have an open API and open source booking platforms, meaning no cab office is closed off to integration with other software. They can have their own customised website and app, as well as integrating with more well known brands for lead generation.
What problem are you trying to solve with your open source taxi app?
There are thousands of minicab, taxi and limo companies who feel threatened by big brand apps, but can't afford to compete with their technology. Some competitors charge £15,000 upfront, then monthly fees. By subscribing to T Dispatch, these fleets have free access to the booking app source code, which they can then customise and develop for themselves to increase customer loyalty and brand awareness. These apps will use local knowledge from the local fleets, giving their customers an easy way to book.
Why was it important to T Dispatch to create an open source taxi app?
We want to focus on software solutions. We have publicly promised never to own any passenger-facing brand. We wanted to offer an open API to integrate the dispatch system with any customer-facing app, but the prices being charged from some developers were more than some of our clients could afford. That's why we felt it was important for us to develop one of our own. Making the app open source allows our customers to customise their app, sharing any improvements and tweaks amongst themselves. This really helps build a community around our brand.
What are some ways your users are customizing the app for their needs?
Are users doing anything you didn't originally envision when you created the software?
They can customise everything—not just the logo and colours. The beauty is that you can add any modules you like. Be it maps, payment platforms, existing CRM data or just integrating your social media feeds. You can change the layout and make it look completely unique.
The launch of the API is very recent, so we would be very happy to hear from all the developers doing amazing things with our solution.
What advice do you have for other open source software startups?
Do something really meaningful that contributes to creating a better world, because it's all about passion. Make people love your code!