The co-founder of app start-up GoCatch has hit back at claims by the NSW Taxi Council that the venture compromises passenger safety.
The Taxi Council’s CEO, Peter Ramshaw, told the Sunday Telegraph that the app, which allows users to track and book nearby taxis via their iPhones, was a hazard as it bypassed the traditional call dispatch process.
“If unauthorised networks are dispatching taxis, (passengers) cannot guarantee that the driver has been authorised by NSW Transport,” he said.
Anne Turner, president of the NSW Taxi Drivers’ Association, backed Ramshaw’s stance, claiming that the app didn’t help drivers and breached regulations.
Under NSW regulations, dispatch networks must only use drivers who have passed criminal history checks and have a valid drivers’ licence. Taxis are also required to be in a clean and roadworthy state.
GoCatch, which was profiled by StartupSmart last week, works by using GPS to allow passengers to locate nearby taxis and book them. They can track the progress of the taxi using Google Maps.
Andrew Campbell, co-founder of the app, tells StartupSmart that the app increases passenger safety, rather than put them at risk.
“When you hail a cab late at night, there are no assurances whatsoever about what you’re getting,” he says.
“The app actually makes catching a taxi safer and easier. Each user, both the passenger and taxi driver, has an ID on their phone that can be tracked, so there’s a record of who caught which taxi.
“We respect the Taxi Council and we understand their concerns. We share those concerns. We believe what we are doing is making the industry more reliable, safer and efficient. We are interested in working with them, but we haven’t had any contact with them as yet.”
Currently, the app isn’t restricted in any way, potentially allowing anyone to download it and pose as a taxi driver. Campbell says that GoCatch is working on an update to improve the safety aspect.
“It’s very early says for us, but we are talking to the Government about how to further improve safety,” he says.
“Nothing is set in stone, but we have a few options. We are planning to release an update that allows passengers and drivers to rate each other. That will help build a professional reputation for the drivers and provide an idea of the reliability of passengers. (But) we don’t want to make the app too limiting.”
“It’s a great concern that the Taxi Council has said this. But the people in the industry that really matter are the drivers and the passengers. If they don’t get what they want from the industry, they will look elsewhere.”