Why cab it when you can van it?
Ordinary passengers have caught onto the idea of a roomier ride in a cleaner, quieter and more high-tech vehicle.
Van taxi services have been around a long time. Called "call vans," they were used on special occasions: when families with lots of suitcases were going to the airport, or when something bulky had to be moved from one place to another. Vans were reserved with a phone call, as implied by the "call van" nickname.
With smartphones, van-hailing platforms have arisen. They offer a new range of services.
The biggest is Kakao T Venti, which is operated by Kakao Mobility, best known for Kakao Taxi, the leader in the taxi-hailing industry with 80 percent market share. Kakao T Venti recently added Hyundai Motor's nine-seater Staria Lounge Mobility to its fleet.
The Staria Lounge Mobility is an upgraded version of Hyundai Motor's Staria van, which was introduced earlier this year. The upgraded features include an automatic running board step and a 17.3-inch television that hangs from the ceiling in the back.
The upgrade was done specifically for Kakao T Venti.
"The model has been developed based on Kakao Mobility's know-how and experience in the mobility platform industry for many years," Hyundai Motor spokesman said.
Kakao T Venti, which operated 110 vans in April 2020, expanded its fleet to 600.
"Van-hailing seems to be used for more daily routines than special occasions," said a spokeswoman for Kakao Mobility.
Kakao Mobility aims to expand to 10,000 vehicles within this year.
Its service is called i.M and it operates 400 new Kia Carnival vans with leather seats.
Its number of rides has grown steadily between January and July, the company says.
i.M's fleet have cough shields between the first and the second rows of seats. An air sterilizer is operated in the car for the entire ride.
Charging cables for smartphones and tablets are provided along with free wifi inside each car.
For passenger who want to focus on work or relax, i.M drivers are trained to avoid small talk. All the drivers are directly hired by Jin Mobility.
"A lot of customers in taxis these days want to enjoy their rides quietly, and their privacy is intruded upon when a driver asks unnecessary questions, even if they do it without bad intentions," said a spokeswoman for Jin Mobility.
"When a customer is matched with a driver, the customer can click on a button that informs the driver that they want to travel quietly."
BY JIN EUN-SOO [firstname.lastname@example.org[
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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