T-money company hops into taxi app business

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T-money company hops into taxi app business

Korea Smart Card, which operates the country’s sole rechargeable multipurpose transportation card, is launching a taxi app service today, jumping on the bandwagon in the hot tech field that various players already have joined.

The company behind the T-money card said Monday its app differs from existing ones in that once a customer accesses it, it automatically locates him or her and shows vacant taxis in the vicinity on a map. If the customer hails a taxi, the taxi’s route will be shown in real time on the map, along with the estimated arrival time and charges - a service similar to what American ride-sharing start-up Uber provides.

Customers also can pick the taxi they want based on the type of the car and the driver’s history as seen in evaluations by riders.

If a taxi fails to show up on time or customers do not appear in the location they requested, the company said it will provide financial compensation.

Korea Smart Card is set to go so far as to provide incentives to drivers who accept nighttime calls - given chronic problems in busy areas such as Jongno in central Seoul and around Gangnam station in southern Seoul, where people have hard time catching taxis after midnight and some drivers accept only those who offer to pay double or triple the designated fare.

T-money can be used for buses, subways and taxis. Korea Smart Card introduced T-money payments for taxis 10 years ago, when credit card usage was rare and hated by drivers.

“We have built a deep understanding of the taxi industry in the past decade and our model pursuing mutual growth is seen as helping us lead the market,” said Kim Hyung-min, managing director of Korea Smart Card.

Korea has 150,000 taxis that generate 3 trillion won ($2.8 billion) in charges annually.

Various businesses - ranging from Kakao of top mobile messenger KakaoTalk to navigation service provider T-map - have recently rushed into the taxi app market.

They won’t immediately turn a lucrative profit, but will embrace business opportunities stemming from the taxi industry.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]

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