“I wish I could just text a cab to come get us,” Trent Mervine said to Ryan Arndt during their freshman year in Boaz residence hall.
As many SMU students know, the entire process of taking cabs is rather irritating.
Between having to step out of your current location into a quieter atmosphere, waiting on hold for what seems like an eternity, repeating your address multiple times until the receiver on the other end actually gets it correct; then, sitting, wondering how much longer it will be until the cab arrives.
And that’s just the process of ordering your cab. Not to mention once you’ve finally reached your desired location and six people anxiously attempt to pay, it usually results in a single person stuck with the entire cab fare on their credit card because no one carries cash.
Text a cab: an idea that seems so simple yet doesn’t quite exist. With that, Mervine and Arndt immediately knew this was an opportunity to capitalize. With three other friends, they are now pursuing development of a mobile app called Grab a Cab.
The innovative friends, both sophomores now, teamed up with fellow SMU students, Christopher Kraemer, sophomore, Alex Perry, sophomore and Faiz Sayed, junior.
“The first week we were trying to figure out how to turn ‘text a cab’ into something cool,” Mervine said. “Then we thought it would be better if it was a mobile app, so we came up with Grab A Cab.”
For almost a year now, the team has been working with mobile app developers to design and create features for their app. MacroSolve, a company who sells apps and promotes products under the name Illume Mobile has been key in helping the boys further develop Grab A Cab.
MacroSolve led the team to Tim Flusche, a developer for Illume Mobile. “He really liked us and saw potential in our idea,” Mervine said. “He kind of became our mentor and told us the things we need to do to get this up and running.”
Those “things” not only included getting development under the way, but also seeking monetary support from family and friends. What started as a wish and a solution to make the process of taking cabs more efficient has translated into an investment of over $50,000.
Although Grab A Cab was inspired by the idea of being able to text a cab, the creative team has added several other features, as shown in the table, to ensure the highest level of efficiency and convenience when it comes to cabs.
As if being full-time students at SMU hasn’t kept them busy enough, every week the team meets with developers for 2-3 hours, conducts several conference calls and spends hours creating proposals with professional lawyers and consultants.
“I was really impressed by their vision and the clarity of the vision,” Flusche said. “They have skills that are up to par with people at large corporate companies. I’m amazed at their talent and capability for their age.”
Despite having several features desired by both cab companies and cab users, Grab A Cab will not be officially launched until signing with a major dispatch company or winning a contract with New York, which is currently their prime focus.
In mid-March, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission sent out an RFP (request for a proposal) to mobile app developers. At the time, Grab A Cab was already in mid-development.
“New York is a huge opportunity,” Arndt said. “All the features they wanted were features we had already been working on and that have patents pending.”
If Grab A Cab wins this contract, the app will first be accessible in New York, which will then make it more appealing to dispatch companies in other areas, thus making it easier for Grab A Cab to expand as a mobile app.
Ultimately, Grab A Cab targets those between the ages of 18 and 35: college students and young professionals. The app not only caters to convenience but will hopefully make the streets a lot safer.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism 3,360,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 drive under the influence of alcohol.
Grab A Cab makes the entire process of booking a cab, paying for a cab and even maintaining a relationship with a specific driver more convenient.
Without the hectic process of taking cabs, the number of college students who choose to drive drunk has potential to decrease.
“I know plenty of people who drink and drive because they don’t feel like calling cabs or don’t want to be the one person stuck paying the entire cab fare,” sophomore Morgan Raleigh said.
“I bet a lot more students would take cabs if it wasn’t so complicated.”
In a survey of 50 SMU students, 90 percent replied “yes” when asked if they would be likely to use an iPhone app geared towards making the taxicab experience more enjoyable.
Although the team is still in the beginning stages of launching their app, they hope to expand vastly and quickly.
“Our goal is to have Grab A Cab in every major U.S. city, partner with all the major dispatch providers and work with taxi companies to innovate even further so we can continue to integrate the app even more,” Kraemer said.