, the digital dispatch taxi service, official begins operations in the District today. In the land of Ubers and myTaxis, it is the first service of its kind to be officially approved by the D.C. Taxicab Commission.
"Our approach is to work through the proper channels," explains Kevin Hatfield, vice president of Hailo U.S. "There have been very specific requirements for 'digital dispatch services' and we've been partnering and working with the regulatory bodies."
Hailo is an app that allows passengers to hail a taxi and watch it arrive in real time. Passengers pay for the service on their smartphone with a credit or debit card. The app is free for passengers to download and free for drivers to use. Hailo builds $1.50 per trip into each ride for the convenience of using its service.
Hailo bills itself as a "driver-first company." The startup was founded two years ago in London by three former taxi drivers. While passengers benefit from knowing that their Hailo driver is licensed and credentialed in D.C., drivers benefit from Hailo in several ways, including increased income, safety and a sense of community.
"We strive to be another supply line of passengers," says Hatfield. "That translates into more money [for drivers]. Drivers tend to make 30 percent more money using Hailo." Hailo also identifies the passengers (first name only) and driver to each other before the ride begins, making it a friendlier and safer experience for all parties.
"The app also has features to help drivers," explains Hatfield, "like maps, where [drivers are] needed within the city itself and chat. It's a tough job and we try to give [drivers] features to create more of a community."
Hatfield says that all potential Hailo drivers are screened for license and credential requirements at the Hailo office on Florida Ave. Drivers are then trained on the Hailo system, which requires a smart phone to operate. "A large portion [of our drivers] have smart phones," he says, "but we've partnered with major wireless carriers to help drivers upgrade their phones if they need to."
In addition to D.C., Hailo operates in Boston, New York and Chicago as well as seven other locations internationally.
For a limited time, D.C. passengers can get a $10 Hailo credit by downloading the app and registering for the service.