HKTaxi: Using Google to deliver an intelligent, reliable taxi booking service

About HKTaxi

Founded in 2013, HKTaxi enables residents of Hong Kong to book taxis using a smartphone app. Users have downloaded the app 1.4 million times to smartphones running the Android or iOS mobile operating systems, while more than 60,000 taxi drivers are registered on the service.

Industries: Travel & Hospitality
Location: Hong Kong

With Google technologies, HKTaxi is delivering a highly functional taxi hailing app that enables users and drivers to locate each other and drivers to identify the most effective routes to destinations, operate a viable business model, and enable technology staff to focus on app development rather than administration.

Google Cloud Results

  • Positions business as a market leader
  • Minimizes administration and enables technology staff to focus on app development
  • Reduces business costs

Scales to support a 200-fold increase in traffic from low to peak times

Hailing taxis in any city worldwide can be a frustrating experience – particularly during demand peaks. Fortunately, mobile apps are making the experience easier and more transparent. HKTaxi is a leading taxi hailing app in one of the most vibrant, densely populated areas in the world.

Founded in 2013, HKTaxi enables residents of Hong Kong to book taxis using a smartphone app. Users have downloaded the app 1.4 million times to smartphones running the Android or iOS mobile operating systems, while more than 60,000 taxi drivers are registered on the service.

"We decided to use the Maps SDKs delivered through Google Maps Platform, as Google Maps provides highly detailed imagery, maps, traffic information, and route planning information."

Kay Lui, Co-Founder, HKTaxi

The app supports electronic payment services, and enables users to rate drivers – encouraging them to provide better service. A 24-hours-a-day, seven-day-a-week hotline connects drivers and users with service and support staff to help resolve any issues.

Google Maps key to success

When developing the app, HKTaxi founders realized adding maps to enable drivers to locate users who have placed orders, users to view and track taxis, and drivers to calculate the best routes to requested destinations would be key to its success. HKTaxi turned to Maps SDK for iOS and Maps SDK for Android to add maps based on Google Maps data to its app.

"We decided to use the Maps SDKs delivered through Google Maps Platform, as Google Maps provides highly detailed imagery, maps, traffic information, and route planning information," explains Kay Lui, Co-Founder, HKTaxi.

HKTaxi now uses Places API – delivered through Google Maps Platform – to provide access to information about geographic locations, including the Place Autocomplete service that automatically fills in the name and address of a place as users type.

Supporting business model

However, user experience is not the only area in which Google is providing value to HKTaxi. The organization's business model entails generating revenue from commissions charged to taxi drivers who accept higher value or more convenient fares, while paying drivers to accept shorter or less convenient fares – particularly for frequent or "VIP" users of the service.

This model is extremely important in a market where drivers may be less inclined to pick up shorter fares or fares across Victoria Harbour, which separates Hong Kong Island from the Kowloon Peninsula.

"The main reason we chose Google Cloud Platform was its stability, and the automated scalability available through its managed services."

Kay Lui, Co-Founder, HKTaxi

For the model to work, HKTaxi needs to predict how attractive each user order will be to its drivers. The business is using the TensorFlow open source software library – originally developed by researchers as a framework for a machine learning model that successfully automates this process.

Deploying GCP

Meanwhile, HKTaxi is expanding its use of Google with the deployment of a range of Google Maps Platform services.

HKTaxi's founders had opted to run the app in a different cloud service from launch. However, demand peaks that occurred when large numbers of users sought to book taxis after attending bars and clubs to watch a recent global sporting event caused the app's user experience to deteriorate.

The fact HKTaxi had to assign technology staff to manually scale cloud resources to support demand peaks and troughs also caused problems for the business. This task took staff members away from developing new features and functionality for the app.

After reviewing the market, HKTaxi found Google Cloud Platform was the best fit for its business.

"The main reason we chose Google Cloud Platform was its stability, and the automated scalability available through its managed services," says Lui. The business needed a service that could cost-effectively scale to support 20-fold increases in traffic from average to peak times and 200-fold increases in traffic from lowest-demand to peak times without requiring manual intervention.

"Google technologies are a key enabler for our business and we look forward to adding more Google Cloud Platform services in particular to further entrench our position as a leader in this market."

Kay Lui, Co-Founder, HKTaxi

Its evaluation and advice from the Google Cloud account team led the business to Google Kubernetes Engine – a service that provides a managed environment for deploying, managing, and scaling containerised applications. "The scalability offered by Google Kubernetes Engine should also allow us to reduce our costs, as we pay only for the services and resources we use," explains Lui. The business also plans to deploy its relational database in Cloud SQL to take advantage of the ease of maintenance, management and administration available through the service.

HKTaxi App is already using an in-memory data store based on Cloud Memorystore for Redis to build application caches that deliver sub-second application latency and throughput. Combined with the stability of Google Cloud Platform, this enables the business to provide a reliable, responsive service – a key differentiator in the competitive Hong Kong taxi and car booking market.

"Google technologies are a key enabler for our business and we look forward to adding more Google Cloud Platform services in particular to further entrench our position as a leader in this market,"says Lui.

About HKTaxi

Founded in 2013, HKTaxi enables residents of Hong Kong to book taxis using a smartphone app. Users have downloaded the app 1.4 million times to smartphones running the Android or iOS mobile operating systems, while more than 60,000 taxi drivers are registered on the service.

Industries: Travel & Hospitality
Location: Hong Kong
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Try Kubernetes Engine, BigQuery, and other Cloud Platform products with $300 in free credit and 12 months.

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