If I were a Product Manager in TaxiBeat or Uber or any competitorPosted: July 27, 2012
There is a tremendous amount of data collected by companies the like of TaxiBeat or Uber or any of their competitors. To the uninitiated, these companies match taxi drivers with taxi-seekers usually through smartphone apps that each has installed. For example, through TaxiBeat the taxi-seeker can see the rating of a driver by other taxi-seekers, whether the taxi allows pets, can process credit cards and more, and select the taxi-driver that best fits him.
All these companies collect two basic pieces of data at a relatively high frequency
- the position of a taxi driver at a given time
- the position of a taxi-seeker at a given time
From these two basic pieces of information something wonderful can be built: A real-time supply and demand map of taxi services. Supply is measured by the number of available taxi drivers at a particular area and time. Demand is measured by the number of taxi-seekers at a particular area and time. The next step is to have a map with hot and cold areas for taxi drivers, where a hot area is an area of high demand and low supply and vice versa for the cold area. Taxi drivers generally want to be in hot areas, this is where the “action” is, where they are more likely to find their next customer. This is very-high value information for taxi-drivers. Is the taxi-driver wandering aimlessly trying to find the next customer? He can sure know about that and avoid the “dead” areas. This can be a service that taxi-drivers pay extra to access if they understand it can bring more revenue to them.
Taxi-drivers have traditionally relied on their experience and intuition for such information. Whenever there is a big sport or music event they know that demand for taxi-services will be high after the end of the event. Or at the end of a workday, there will be increased demand for areas where there are many offices, usually downtown. Now with this map, they can take this a step further, they can get unprecedented level of detail and reliability that data will trump experience. The supply-demand map will be what the GPS was to the taxi driver for routing. Before GPS, taxi-drivers could only go up to a certain level of map granularity and they had no real-time traffic information. Similarly, with the supply-demand map, drivers will be able to increase their number of customers by reducing their idle time.
There are benefits for the taxi-seeker as well. In high-demand time and places the taxi-seeker can be given an estimate for the time to find the next taxi. If the estimated time is high enough he can choose to select other means of transportation saving him the frustration of waiting aimlessly for the next taxi.
A critical size of the marketplace is needed before such supply-demand maps are reliable but certainly in big cities such maps can be created.