The internet may finally be putting an end to problems getting taxis in China: two new(ish) apps have made it possible to call a taxi to your spot in minutes via your smart phone. 嘀嘀打车 (Android and IOS)and 快的打车 (Android) allow users to input their destination either by text or by voice and sends that information to drivers nearby. After a driver accepts the call, the phone number and license plate of the driver is sent to the user. A little Chinese is required, but you can store commonly used addresses and send the request by text, so if a friend helps you set it up you can easily learn how to use it.
Although it may soon be difficult to get a cab without them, these apps saw slow growth since their release in 2012 – the entire city of Beijing had only 15 drivers using 嘀嘀打车 on the day it went online! The companies behind these apps offered cash bonuses to drivers who referred others to the app, and phone minutes to cover the significant data charges drivers incur, but it wasn’t until this year when they started offering 10 yuan discounts on taxi rides that the two apps really took off.
Of course, there is the ever-present internet problem of how to make this service profitable. Both companies seem to be looking to incorporating online payments as a way to bring in revenue, but neither seems to have a coherent plan. The services are available in major cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou etc.) and are continuing to expand, so if they can ever turn a profit, they may be coming to Yuncheng very soon.