Buenos Aires Taxi Drivers, Industry Divided Over Mobile Apps

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Buenos Aires residents and visitors are the beneficiaries of a new wave of technology designed to make calling a taxi easier, faster and more transparent. And while many Buenos Aires taxi drivers have been early adopters of mobile apps, the industry they work for is not exactly giving new technology un abrazo grande.

The Complicated Relationship Between Buenos Aires Taxi Drivers and Technology is the title of Guillermo Tomoyose’s analysis in today’s La Nacion which looks at apps like EasyTaxi and SaferTaxi through the eyes of major actors including drivers, city officials, and union bosses.

City officials tell the author that the act of calling a taxi is regulated by Law 3622, and legal cab companies must have a physical location for their offices. “Within that system, there was no contemplation of services to call taxis through other means (than telephones) like the Internet, SMS or e-mail,” writes Tomoyose.

“Developing a system of safe, quality taxis is one of our priorities. Passengers should always use licensed vehicles with insurance policies in case of an accident,” says Guillermo Dietrich, the sub-secretary of transportation for the City of Buenos Aires. Tomoyose adds a footnote that the GCBA is not opposed to new technology and the advances that can come from these services.

“To comply with these requirements, SaferTaxi has worked in association with a Radio Taxi company since 2013, and currently we have 2,000 taxis affiliated with our service in Buenos Aires,” explains SaferTaxi’s VP of Marketing, Ana Pereyra Iraola. SaferTaxi was founded in 2009 and has the goal of reaching 35,000 registered drivers and 2 million passengers in Argentina.

EasyTaxi, which was founded in Sao Paulo and received a multi-million dollar injection from Berlin-based Rocket Internet, continues to operate as an independent service unaffiliated with a radio taxi company. The BA taxi drivers consulted by the author all praised the accuracy and ubiquity of both EasyTaxi and SaferTaxi.

The published statement from the BA Taxi Drivers Union was somewhat less effusive: “These services are violating established laws and rulings by using Internet applications. Their objective is a system of individual drivers, without insurance, licenses or technical controls in the vehicles, and with unregulated, black market labor.”

And if the unions feel threatened now, just wait until Uber arrives. An official launch date is unknown, but Tomoyose says speculation is growing now that the San Francisco-based company published a BA job classified on LinkedIn. (Full Story in Spanish)

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