MyTaxi rides into U.S. market with a trick up its sleeve

When it comes to taxi apps for the smartphone, the U.S. has a few to choose from – depending on the city, there’s Uber, Hailo… and now, if you’re in Washington D.C., there’s myTaxi.

MyTaxi is actually an older service than the aforementioned upstarts. It’s been going in Germany since mid-2009 and, reflecting quite a lot of international expansion since then, it now claims 2.3 million users and a taxi base of over 18,000.

D.C. is its first U.S. play, and it announced the move in a cute, if crackly, Ustream performance on Wednesday. The functionality of the iOS and Android app should be fairly familiar by now: a peer-to-peer connection between the driver and passenger, a rating system for the drivers and live-tracking of the approaching cab. MyTaxi also has an in-app fare calculator, which is useful.

A driver-side version of the app also exists, for helping drivers monitor customer locations and get some basic information on them.

“Americans took more than 10 billion trips on public transportation last year,” myTaxi CEO Niclaus Mewes said in a statement. “Smartphones can have an immense impact on urban mobility. At myTaxi we want to rethink and reshape how taxi trips are taken. Passengers and drivers want something convenient, transparent and tailored to their needs. We want to deliver on that.”

Rethink and reshape how taxi trips are taken? That seems a bit strong, given that the idea has already become pretty hot in the U.S. over the last couple of years, and plenty of players are trying to take over the space.

But wait, there’s more…

It’s true that myTaxi does have some differentiators up its sleeve, and not just its share-grabbing $5-voucher launch offer. For one thing, the company seems to have the endorsement of the D.C. Taxicab Commission – a useful kind of thing to have, when you look at the troubles Uber has been having in Chicago, New York and, uh, D.C.

“The D.C. Taxicab Commission welcomes any electronic reservation company such as myTaxi, bringing technological advancements to the District of Columbia,” D.C. Taxicab Commission chairperson Ron Linton said. “We are delighted that passengers using DC public vehicles-for-hire will enjoy the enhanced quality of service.”

But the really interesting thing about myTaxi becomes apparent when you look at its investors. One of the big ones is Daimler’s Car2Go car-sharing service. And talk about synergies.

MyTaxi and Car2Go are in fact sharing an office in D.C., and that looks set to be a trend. I asked myTaxi spokeswoman Lina Wueller where in the U.S. myTaxi would expand to next, and she refused to name names but did suggest I check out where Car2Go is active. So that would be places like Miami and Austin, then.

And here’s why:

“We are planning to integrate myTaxi into [Car2Go’s] app,” Wueller said. “We’re going to launch that firstly in Europe, and then in other markets.

“We’re aiming for people not needing to own cars anymore.”

So that’s the trick: if you’re out and about, and you need a car, you’ll use Car2Go’s app to find the closest one that’s available for you to drive. If you can’t find a suitable car, or you’re not in a driving mood, you’ll hail a cab through myTaxi, from the same app.

Clever strategy. But will it be enough to displace the companies that have been taking over the U.S. market over the last couple of years? If myTaxi and Car2Go can expand fast enough, they may stand a chance.