Hail and pay for a cab using your smartphone or tablet.
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Living in Chicago, there are times when it is virtually impossible to hail a cab. Just recently, I was running late for an appointment after work on a Friday and every cab was occupied. After trying in vain for 15 minutes, I tried out an app that I recently heard about: Hailo. After creating an account and entering in my credit card information, I was in a cab and on my way to my destination in less than five minutes. This free app, available for both iOS and Android, is currently available in Chicago, Boston, London, Dublin and Toronto, and it has plans to launch soon in New York, Toyko, Madrid and Barcelona. The app claims to “make sure people are never more than two taps away from a licensed taxi,” and I found that to be the case.
After installing the app on your smartphone or tablet, set up an account, which requires your email address, mobile number and credit card information (this information is encrypted). You can set up multiple credit cards and tag them as either personal or business accounts. You can also set it up so that you automatically tip a specified percentage of the fare and you can ask for special requests such as wheelchair access.
Once you have your account set up, you are ready to hail a cab. Using your device’s GPS, the app displays where you are and the cabs that participate in the Hailo program that are nearby. There is a blue “pin” that indicates your location and you can move it around on the map to your exact location, if necessary. The app shows how many minutes away the nearest taxi is. Tap on the Pick me Up Here button and the app notifies the closest available cab. You can then watch as it approaches your location. You receive the taxi number and the driver’s name, and the driver in turn gets your name.
Since you’ve already entered in your credit card information, and tip amount, there is nothing more for you to do once you arrive at your destination. Within minutes, you receive a receipt via email. While there is no charge to use the service, there is a Hailo service fee that differs depending on where you are located and the time of day. In Chicago, the off-peak fee is $1.50 and the peak fee is $2.75. Some may grouse at this, but not having to wait for a credit card transaction to go through while parked on a busy street is worth it! Additionally, there is something to be said for tapping your smartphone to hail a cab and being able to jump out of the cab once you get to your destination without having to “pay” and wait for a receipt. Finally, I have found this method of “calling” a cab much more reliable than going through a service’s dispatcher. Where I live in Chicago, I have had to wait as long as 45 minutes for a cab, and sometimes they never show.
While this app doesn’t have a wide coverage, if you live in one of its service areas, and rely a lot on taxis, Hailo is definitely an app worth checking out. It has become a permanent fixture on my iPhone. The only caveat is the service fee. While none of us like to pay fees, the convenience of this app, especially when you can’t find an available cab, is worth the service fee.