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    The international smartphone ride-hailing service comes to Chennai, with Mercs and BMWs on call

    In spite of the 37,000 taxis—from over 30 call taxi services—cruising Chennai’s streets, a new player hopes to change the game. Uber, the app-based taxi service that has successfully made its presence felt in over 70 cities across the globe, kicked off its official operations in Chennai this week. To hail a cab, all you need is their app on your smart phone; they will find you via your Android/iPhone’s GPS.

    “We have everything from a Toyota Altis to a Camry, Innova and the occasional BMW and Mercedes Benz,” reveals Swathy Prithivi who handles the company’s international launches. Better yet, Prithvi adds, “All cars are priced exactly the same—at `15 per kilometre.” To our delight, she assures us that these are ‘not promotional prices.’ The only downside— you’ll get whichever cab is closest to your location. So don’t be surprised if a Merc shows up the first time and an Innova the next.

    There is more. A map in the app will show your car moving towards you in real time and you can send a map of your location (moving car and all) to whoever is waiting for you at the other end, so that they know how early or late you’re going to be.  And here’s the clincher—all this is on a cash-less basis. “We take credit card details when you register with us,” explains Prithvi. And if that weren’t enough, there’s even an option on the app to split the fare among those travelling with you!

    We wondered how Chennai’s drivers responded to dealing with customers via the app, as opposed to the old school, operator-controlled-orders. Prithvi laughs, “Each driver has a smartphone in the car, so they think it’s pretty cool!” As for how difficult it is for non-techies to use, it turns out all you need to do to request a ride is press two buttons. “Even my grandmother, who doesn’t know anything about technology, can do it,” Prithvi assures us with a laugh. And after a quick tour, we certainly agree.

    Details: Uber app is available for Android and iOS

    - Sonali Shenoy

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