State College

State College cab firm preps for Uber competition with new app

Patrick Evans held up a GPS device that he will install in each of AA Taxi’s cabs in the next week.

It’s a change that Evans, AA Taxi’s owner, said is in response to Uber coming to town.

“The whole taxi industry is changing, and you can’t just sit back,” he said.

Evans signed a deal with Toronto-based Gata Labs to use its Gata Hub app, which uses technology similar to Uber. The deal gives AA Taxi exclusive rights to use the Gata Hub app in the region for two years.

“Like Uber, the passenger will see where the driver is, the customer and driver will have information on each other so the driver will have the phone number of the passenger like Uber, and the taxi customer will have the driver’s information as well,” Evans said. “If you listen to our radio for a while you’ll hear a driver call back and say ‘I need their number, because they’re not out.’ This makes our process more seamless.”

The new competitor prompted Evans to improve his company’s services, but he questions whether Uber will stack up against a his company’s infrastructure.

“Customers will order from our app, but it’ll go through our computer and to our live dispatcher, which is a huge difference between us and Uber,” Evans said. “... I can’t tell you how times customers call and change their mind about where they’re going or if they’re delayed 10 minutes, and we can rearrange things. If you do everything automatically like Uber and try to change things, it will cause issues. We have an infrastructure to fix those problems.”

Uber also plays by different rules than local taxi companies, because its drivers can decide who they will provide services to.

“If you call me from Bellefonte and say you want driven two blocks, by law I have to come pick you up,” Evans said. “I can’t pick and choose customers the way Uber can. They’re a ride-sharing company, and they don’t classify themselves as a taxi even though they are. You don’t have to pay if you’re an Uber passenger, but if you don’t pay they’ll put it in your Facebook profile that you don’t pay.”

Traditional taxi services do have some advantages over Uber, which cannot pick up customers who flag down their cars.

“If they do, they’re in violation of their licensing,” Evans said.

Evans said it’s possible Uber won’t affect the local industry.

“We’ll see. Maybe they’ll help. There was one company in this town when I moved here in 1994, and when more came on it drummed up business. Or maybe we’ll lose a company.”