Depending on where you are, catching a taxi cab can be either a relatively straightforward activity or a total and complete anxiety-induced nightmare. Fortunately, as with so many other things, there is indeed an app for that. In fact, there are several.
We found the following five offerings which each have their own pros and cons. It's worth mentioning that because regulations for transportation services differ from state to state, some apps work better in some cities due to rules and fleet sizes. However, these apps are all good for times when you find yourself just needing a ride like on rainy nights, in unfamiliar cities, or if you've just gotten out of a concert or major sporting event.
Taxi Magic: A solid example, this app works on iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and even Palm handsets. The service is also available on the web and via text message; texting an address gets you a instant confirmation and you can track the arrival of your taxi. You can also charge the ride to your credit card and expense the trip with an e-reciept, and while the app itself is free, text and data rates will still apply. The automated service works in over forty cities including San Francisco, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles and New Orleans.
Cabsense: A New York City-based service, CabSense analyzes tens of millions of GPS data points from the taxi cabs in the city to report back where the best location is to catch a cab. The app features a Map View which displays the cabs closest to your location on an interactive map, or a Radar View which steers you towards the best corner to hail a cab. There's also a slider which sets date, time and location information for future cab needs. It will also whistle and blink with a message to help you catch a driver's attention. The app is free, and there is a complimentary online version but be forewarned - in areas where there are no standard or "yellow" cab services, the app will find for-hire vehicles (such as car services and livery cabs) which are often prohibited from picking up street hails and are not always subject to the same laws and standards as standard cabs.
Uber: Uber, aka "Everybody's Private Driver," is an elite-level option that delivers a sleek black town car with a professional driver behind the wheel in minutes. All you'll need to do is set your pickup location on a map (or type in your address on the web service, or text your address and city) and Uber dispatches the nearest driver to you. It will also send you a text with the cars estimated arrival time and text you again when the car arrives at the curb. Uber automatically charges the ride to your credit card and includes a tip for a completely hassle (and cash) free payment. Now, a premium service does come with a premium price: Uber has a base fare of $8 with the charge dependent on speed after that. There's a minimum fare of $15 and a cancellation fee of $10; the app is available on iPhone and Android phones and is available in about 12 locations throughout the U.S. And Canada.
TaxiMojo: A direct-connect to a taxi driver, this app finds drivers close to you and let them know you need a ride. When a driver accepts, you can watch the cab move towards you on a map. The twist here is the "Bounty Mojo" option to bid more on your ride in order to beat out other customers, which is useful when you find yourself competing against the 4,000 other people who also just left AT&T Park. The app also displays your cabs number and color scheme so you can easily recognize it once it arrives and can remember favorite locations. If you exit the app, it will push updates and notifications to your screen so you know right when the cab will arrive. Like most of the other apps, it's free and also has a web service.
CabCorner: An app with and added twist, CabCorner lets you search for commuters that are also headed the same direction as you, then allows you to select a sponsored retails store or "HotSpot" to meet up with your cab companion to share a cab to your desintation. You can also volunteer to share a cab with another CabCorner user. Designed to reduce travel costs as well as provide another green transportation option, the app has the added bonus of reducing traffic on the street and increasing traffic inside the sponsored stores. The website includes safety tips and testimonials to ensure that all riders feel comfortable, however the service itself is currently limited to San Francisco and is iPhone only. It also provides special offers, coupons, deals and discounts. 99Cents.
Images courtesy shutterstock, taximagic.com, cabsense.com, uber.com, sfcabcorner.com