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Taxis get a tech update to compete with Uber and Lyft

Taxis get a tech update to compete with Uber and Lyft
TaxiOS uses a smartphone to replace traditional taxi meters. (Flywheel)

Taxis are about to get a technology makeover.

Flywheel, the Redwood City, Calif., technology company that works with the taxi industry, announced Thursday it will begin piloting in San Francisco an all-in-one GPS-based smartphone taxi meter, which will replace existing technology in participating taxis.

TaxiOS will work on Android phones and replace meters, payment systems, navigation and dispatch technologies with a single app. If that sounds familiar, it's because on-demand transportation services such as Uber and Lyft currently use similar technologies, which allow customers to track their rides and pay through cashless transactions.

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"If there's anything that's been shown from Uber and Lyft, it's that to get the scale and to give customers what they need, it has to be done with the smartphone," said Flywheel's director of communications, Bob Patterson. "Everyone we're having conversations with is ready to make the move."

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Unlike Uber and Lyft, where customers can hail a ride only from a mobile app, Flywheel's technology also will work with phone dispatch, and customers still can hail a cab off the street.

The Flywheel app is available in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, Sacramento and Portland, Ore. The new TaxiOS is available only in select taxis in San Francisco, but it will roll out to additional cities once cleared by regulators.

Twitter: @traceylien

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