SAN ANTONIO – In the smartphone world, not all apps are created equal – and San Antonio’s police chief is asking the city to crack down on “rogue” apps popping up in the taxi industry.
Reputable apps send a licensed taxi driver to you quickly, but rogue apps could send anyone to your door.
For example, a woman in Washington, D.C., recently used an app to hail a cab and it ended up being a scam. She says the driver raped her.
Chief William McManus says nothing like that has happened locally and he wants to make sure it never does.
Here in San Antonio, no one can put a car on the street and call it a taxi.
"No, you can't do that,” taxi driver Folorunso Olatunde says. “That's breaking the law."
And the law says drivers need special licenses. They also go through background checks and their vehicles get safety checks. Plus, the meters are checked so passengers aren’t overcharged.
"It's monitored,” Olatunde says. “They monitor the taxi business strictly."
What hasn’t been monitored, yet: smartphone apps. Most cabbies in town use an app police say is safe: Hail-A-Cab.
"The app we have is such that the passengers would have to contact dispatch,” Olatunde says.
But rogue apps don’t send your request to a central dispatch. Instead, your information goes directly to a driver.
"There are no rules or regulations that they follow,” Chief McManus says. “And it could be anyone coming."
He says you know you’re dealing with a rogue app when before you've even asked for the cab, it wants your credit card number – a big red flag.
So Chief McManus is asking the city to regulate the kinds of apps taxi drivers are allowed to use.
And the city’s largest taxi company, Yellow Cab, is all for it.
"If these rogue apps are permitted to come into this city or any city, the riding public is in jeopardy,” John Bouloubasis with Yellow Cab says.
Chief McManus says city council will take up the issue in two weeks.
Many other major cities around the country have either blocked rogue taxi apps, or are working on it.