by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
Daum Kakao on Tuesday launched its new cab-hailing app KakaoTaxi in South Korea to compete with Uber, which has recently been subjected to crackdowns by Korean authorities.
KakaoTalk is considered to be Korea’s most popular mobile messenger operator, boasting over 140 million users worldwide. The new taxi app is Daum Kakao’s first step towards transforming KakaoTalk from a SMS replacement to a lifestyle services platform, according to the company’s press release.
KakaoTaxi is reported to automatically set a pick up location and finds the nearest available cab based on distance and current traffic conditions. Once the request is approved, the app provides the passenger with the driver’s name, photo and vehicle description. Passengers can also send push notifications to their KakaoTalk friends that includes pick-up time, drop off location and estimated ride time. For further privacy protection, all chatroom exchanges are automatically deleted once the cab reaches its destination.
Earlier this month, South Korean authorities arrested the head of Uber Korea and 29 other company officials on suspicion of operating illegal taxi services.
Prior to the launch, Daum Kakao took careful steps to avoid the same mistakes as Uber by signing memorandums of understanding with organizations representing licensed taxi operators, including the Korean National Joint Conference of Taxi Association, the Seoul Taxi Association, the Federation of Korean Taxi Workers’ Union and the Korean Taxi Workers’ Union.
KakaoTaxi also signed an agreement with subway card maker Korea Smart Card Corp., which is 34 percent owned by the Seoul Metropolitan City Government. With this deal, passengers can pay for their cab rides with their T-money cards and the app can track the flow of commuters in Seoul—another advantage over Uber.
Fares can also be paid via online payment services KakaoPay or BankWalletKakao, according to a Q&A with Daum Kakao.
“KakaoTaxi was designed to make the taxi-riding experience as simple and easy as possible by eliminating the need to physically hail taxis or search for taxi service phone numbers,” John Jung, Head of KakaoTaxi TF said in a statement. “Daum Kakao will continue to improve the service so anyone that needs a taxi can use KakaoTaxi to get where they need to go quickly, conveniently and safely.”
KakaoTaxi is available for download at Google Play store, with an iOS version scheduled for release in April.