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Is Google really a gamechanger for iCabbi fleets? Q&A interview with Taxi Alliance CEO Bob Nixon

Dec 3, 2023

by Sarah Ryan

Last month, iCabbi announced a landmark move to integrate with Google. Fleets are heralding this as a ‘game-changer’. Indeed the impact it will make has been likened to the level of transformation iCabbi brought back in the early 2010s when it disrupted the market with the first-ever fully cloud-based taxi dispatch solution and, with that, an SaaS model. But what exactly does integration with Google mean for taxi and private hire firms in the UK, and could this really be a new chapter for taxi innovation? iCabbi Founder and Taxi Alliance CEO Bob Nixon shares his view.

Q: What is the Google Mobility Platform?
A: The most sophisticated development toolkit out there to build any kind of transport scenario.

Q: Why is the iCabbi-Google integration such a big deal?
A: It’s going to give drivers and passengers the kind of features that until now have only been available to users of global ridehail apps. Things like precision ETAs, real-time updates based on live traffic feeds, rerouting, passenger pick-up location tracking, and so on. So, an app experience like any of the ridehail giants. Google fleet engine is the technology they have built their platforms. We now have access to the exact same tech stack and data feeds, so essentially the playing field has been levelled.
From the dispatch side, from the operator’s perspective, it’s like getting a brain transplant. iCabbi is already a very powerful custom system for taxis. Now, its performance is going to be bolstered by the Google Fleet engine capabilities. Customers will benefit from the enhanced intelligence provided by the live data feeds and from a host of new features that will use fleet analytics and learning to effectively manage demand and supply. More automation, more optimization, and more benefits for fleets in terms of real business outcomes. rivers can earn more. Fleets can service more bookings. Good news all around.

Q: It certainly sounds exciting. What’s the mood in iCabbi at the moment?
A: Buzzy, if that’s a word. It feels like we have taken a big leap forward and backward at the same time. Forward because we’re delivering taxi innovation at the very frontier. No one else has done what we are doing now and that feels great. We’re leading the field and the response we’re getting from customers is invigorating. And I say backward really just in the sense that the momentum we have feels like the early days of iCabbi when things happened fast and had an impact fast. When we first launched iCabbi it transformed how people were running taxi companies and this tech move is really bringing something very new to the industry. It’s a great time to be working at iCabbi and exciting for old-timers like me to be part of another wave of innovation.

Q: How soon will customers see this integration working within their products?
A: Right now. The first move has been to get Turn-By-Turn Google nav into the Driver App. That’s already available now on iOS and out on Android in January. So, it has been very quick. It’s a necessary foundation to get the products talking to each other through Google connections. But that’s really just the foundation for the rest of the stuff to come. Customers will see new features at the beginning of next year, things like precision ETAs and passenger live location tracking…. but again that is just the beginning. Google will be part of our roadmap for all of 2024 and beyond.

Q: Are you charging your customers for this?
A: No. We are absorbing this cost on behalf of our customers.

Q: What put iCabbi in the position to be able to secure the integration with Google, given that no other dispatch provider has done this?
A: Yeah, so integrating with the Google Fleet Engine platform is a private negotiation, and this in itself is an achievement as it is a lengthy process. Google is selective with whom it integrates with, and so we have the claim of being the first B2B passenger mobility provider to offer this to our customers. In other words, we’re the first company not in the B2C space – (as in ridehail) who are passing this tech onto our customers to pass on to theirs.
There were a couple of factors that helped us secure the Google deal.
Scale is one of them. We’ve over 100,000 drivers using the platform world-wide, so we bring the volume of use.
Our parent is Mobilize, part of Renault, and this brought strength and buying power.
And of course, investment, through Moblize, is critical. As I already said, we’re absorbing the cost for our customers. That adds up to a big financial investment from us which we are able to do. The investment also comes in the form of R&D resources. This is needed to deliver the integration as well as other iCabbi product innovations. We hired 32 new members of the R&D team this year, with more planned for next year. So, we’re well over the 1oo headcount in that department now. It’s a cool project to work on and just one of a number of big ticket items that are attracting new talent. 

Q: What other product developments are taking place at iCabbi?
A: We’ve just launched our Driver Docs product, which takes lots of back office admin away from fleets. Driver Pay is also lined up for early next year. Our networking solution pilot kicked off in London last week which is great to see. We have a really cutting-edge new product called iCabbi Move which offers a really intelligent and streamlined solution for multi-trip optimisation. The use case we’re focusing on right now is Non-Emergency Medical Transportation in North America, but Move is definitely not limited by location or use case, it’s a great fit for school transportation, employee shuttles, coaches, and that kind of thing. So, we have a lot going on. 

Q: iCabbi is busy.
A: You can say that again! Good busy! 

Q: And the Taxi Alliance?
A: The Taxi Alliance, our initiative to unite the taxi and private hire industry in the UK and Ireland, is going from strength to strength. We have over 44000 licenses now within the Alliance and have delivered on numerous initiatives to help support the sector. Most recently we launched Driver Perks, which is a collective benefits type program that gives really decent discounts and offers to drivers of Taxi Alliance fleets. Things like money off fuel, supermarket shops, entertainment and so on. I wish I had it myself, if I’m honest.
We’re also busy with our Vehicle offering, which we’re bringing to the UK market through Mobilize. 

Q: Sounds like a very good time to be an iCabbi customer and a member of the Taxi Alliance.
A: Yes, and our customers will feel that even more so as our roadmap delivers on Google features straight off the bat in 2024. 

Q: Well, congratulations to you and iCabbi on what indeed appears to be a new chapter for taxi technology. Let’s catch up next year to see where it is at.