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This is where you'll find an eclectic mix of what makes me tick. Suffolk based, pig rearing Vegan. If it's not online it doesn't exist. Bandwidth is a basic human right.
I wasn't exactly complimentary about Le Web Paris when I attended it last year, so I didn't have high expectations of Le Web London but having just returned - I must say, it was a good two days, well worth it for me. I found the venue (Westminster Hall) full of quirky character and it felt far more intimate than Paris last year. Besides which, conferences on the whole prove valuable to me from a thought generation point of view. My days are usually so broken up by children, farm activities and other responsibilities I battle to find focussed thinking-time related to the web space in which I actively invest.
There were many good sessions -perhaps I'll post later on what I learned from each session (don't for one minute assume all sessions were worth while) but this post is about taxi tech, so bear with me. Le Web in Paris last year featured Uber - a company that reckons they're "Everyone's Private Driver". At the time, I wouldn't have guessed them crazy enough to compete in London. It's different in San Francisco, infamous for taxi shortages. In London you've got the huge network of licensed black cabs, the most sophisticated in the world if you measure it by the knowledge etc. Then on the private hire side one has Addison Lee which operates a network of nearly 3,500 cars in London. Since Le Web Paris in December last year, the relatively new Hailo has launched - an app that allows you to hail a black cab from curb side. One of the livelier sessions at Le Web, for me, was a session where Michael Arrington "tried" to remain partial moderating a session where Uber was pitted against Hailo. (Arrington's Crunch Fund is invested in Uber). Both CEO's were pretty impressive having their VC's on stage with them too! I couldn't make up my mind who had the better service so I did some analysis myself comparing Uber, Hailo and Addison Lee (the latter I used a lot when I lived in London and have been ever since especially after the launch of their iPhone App)
I started out by pre-booking an Addison Lee car to take me from Westminster to Victoria to my hotel. This I did on their pretty good iPhone App - had my card details already saved in it and so took a few swipes and the car was waiting for me outside the Hall having sent me a text advising me of the registration number of the vehicle.Very professional service. Almost brand new Ford Galaxy, air conditioned, clean arrived on time. It cost me a fixed cost of £13 (expensive for the distance)
That evening I tubed it to Matilda in Covent Garden. (my current favourite west-end Musical) planning to get back to my hotel in Victoria either by using Hailo or Uber. The musical finished at about 21h40 and I wanted to get back to the hotel as quickly as possible and didn't feel strong enough to battle public transport. As we swarmed out of the theatre there wasn't an available black cab in sight so I fired up Uber which quoted me a 6 minute wait (which I didn't think was bad) - by comparison I then fired up Hailo and it quoted me 1 minute's wait. Guess what I opted for (and that's not even taking cost into consideration) - Hailo won my business.
The Hailo service was awesome - took a minute as predicted and I was hotel bound pretty quickly.
The next morning I used Hailo again to travel from the hotel to the venue. It cost me £6 - the same distance that cost me £13 with Addison Lee the day before. And the best part with Hailo is you pay not a penny more than the meter price you'd ordinarily pay even if you opt, at the time of booking, to pay using your pre-saved card details. You're also emailed a beautifully designed receipt which acts as a digital record for expense claim purposes - I'm sure Uber does the latter too, as does Addison Lee although the email looks like a dog's breakfast. (Up until now, the other reason I used Addison Lee rather than black cabs was because
I had intended using Uber when I left Day 2 of Le Web but the wait was just too long. I'll cut Uber some slack here though - they only launched in London this week and have limited cars on the road and all the demand was coming out of Le Web at the same time too! But can Uber put enough cars on the road to compete with the Black Cabs and Addison Lee? Hailo has
3,5004,600 black cabs signed up and Addison Lee has a similar fleet size. [update: as per comment below from Hailo themselves : "Hailo now have over 4,600 Black Cabs signed up in London, a number that is growing by over 150 new drivers each week""]
Now, you could also argue that we're not comparing apples with apples and that riding in a black cab is a different proposition to Uber's Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW fleet. I have to say I've never found a black cab that comfortable and it's been one reason I've used Addison Lee - especially in Summer - the majority of Black Cabs don't have aircon! You would therefore expect Uber to charge more for their service than a black cab - it looks pretty similar cost wise to Addison Lee - but I haven't bothered running the numbers.
So in summary the three drivers in this taxi war (see what I did?) are Cost, Comfort and Availability.
Personally, Addison Lee just lost first place to Hailo- Addlee is too expensive and why prebook something when you can get such a good turnaround from Hailo and their black cab fleet?
For a treat I may choose to ride in the comfort of an Uber vehicle next week and I'll put them to a test (but I'm not prepared to stand waiting on a street corner for more than 10 minutes). I think Uber's like-for-like competitor is Addison Lee with a comparative cost and comfort but Addison Lee has more vehicles on the road.
But frankly, to me and many others, it's all about getting somewhere as quickly and cheaply as possible. So, in London - Hailo, you're the winner in my book.