WHISTLING IN THE WIND: A Singapore government-sponsored Uber-type app has been panned as 'stunningly pointless' by online commentators. Image: Shutterstock
SINGAPORE - Controversial taxi-calling cellphone app Uber is under fire from Brussels to Bangkok but in Singapore a government-sponsored alternative has been panned as "stunningly pointless" by online commentators.
The Taxi-Taxi@SG smartphone app - a rare effort by a government to compete with the likes of Uber - was launched by the Land Transport Authority on Wednesday (Dec 18 2014).
The app displays the locations of available taxis across the tiny city-state's 28 000-strong registered taxi fleet but is ultimately useless because, unlike Uber, the app does not allow one to be booked.
Web-based service Uber has gained in popularity around the world in recent years but has drawn protests from established taxi operators who say the service does not comply with regulations governing registered cabs. The booking app has seen its image tarnished - as it it doesn't happen in ordinary taxis - by the claimed rape of a passenger by an Uber driver in New Delhi and by executives' gaffes and concerns on privacy.
However in Singapore, a service that allows users to "broadcast" their location to draw taxi drivers to areas with high demand but not actually book a cab drew a steady stream of online derision on Thursday (Dec 18 2014).
Services offered by the San Francisco-headquartered company have been ruled illegal in Thailand, the Netherlands and Spain; it is the subject of a tax probe in Belgium.
Terence Lee, an editor with Singapore-based technology website Tech in Asia, slammed the app in a post titled "This taxi app by Singapore's transport agency is stunningly pointless".
Lee wrote: "Taxi booking apps... solve real problems: getting commuters a cab fast and giving taxi drivers a means to make more money. This is something that's best left to the private sector. LTA should put taxpayer's money to better use."
TOUCH OF SATIRE
On Twitter, some Singaporeans responded to a call by local satirist Lee Kin Mun to "rename the most useless taxi app in the world", with one user suggesting "Turn Up For What", a play on the popular song by DJ Snake and L'il Jon.
An LTA spokesperson told AFP the app lacked a booking function because it "is meant to facilitate the hailing of taxis along the street".
"Going forward, we will monitor users' feedback and enhance the app based on feedback."