Recently I had the opportunity to view the range of taxi despatch (or dispatch if you prefer) & booking software that taxi companies use to book in jobs from the telephone and send the job out to the driver.
Which software products being reviewed
I used to work in the taxi industry as the technical director at a 180 car company which I no longer work at. I personally shopped around to see what other products were on the market and then fed this information back to the board. I can now release my personal opinions on here and are not those views of my former employer.
Obviously to maintain commercial sensitivity with the prices quoted I’ll refer in “beans”
Cabmaster – 1 bean
Mercury – 1¼ beans
Autocab – 1½ beans
Cordic – 3 beans
Size of Company
This is perceived size, I don’t have accurate data
Cabmaster – 6
Mercury – 30
Cordic – 50
GPC – 200
Quality of Sales Rep
(I used to be a medical sales, so have been trained in classical needs based, LSCPA sales)
Cabmaster – Non existent.
Mercury – Very impressed, relaxed, confident, let’s product do most of talking.
Autocab – Sales Sales Sales. But yet subtle. Took me down to Data Cars in Birmingham to see operation.
Cordic – Arrogant, actively avoided talking price. Arranged for me to visit A1 Radio cars. Did bring along a very impressive presentation though, with the software run from a laptop. (Impressive use of system resources)
With both Autocab and Cordic the visits arranged were primarily cash based businesses which did not really meet the account work volume that Millers Taxis have, therefore it was not representative. Mercury did try and match like for like, and to an extent did show similar account work volumes.
This is very important for any taxi company as cash work is very easy to input. ie “34 Smith st TAB 12 ashbourne crescent END” (example) with the majority of the bookings for NOW. Booking in account work takes slightly longer and more care is needed.
Technical Quality of Software
Autocab despite it’s sales material DOES use a client server model, with the dispatchers machine acting as the server. Autocab uses an embedded MySQL server, with distributed backup. There is still a single point of failure, however with hard drives set up in a RAID configuration and database cloning this is greatly reduced. The programme itself is installed on Shuttle micro ITX computers running WindowsXP, on boot the programme auto loads and prompts for a “function” ie Dispatcher. PDA software is difficult to use but does have redundancy (grr) built in.
Cordic uses Microsoft 2003 SQL server. Is REALLY quick. (no … really really quick). The link between the modules is very well set out which allows for quick input.
Cabmaster uses static database files (.btr) using the BTrieve (Pervasive SQL), with the files shared over Windows File Sharing (SMB) which is from the dark ages of computing. This in my eyes is one of cabmaster’s biggest failings, any hard drive corruption or write error can seriously damage the files leading to jobs being lost. To my knowledge there have been 2 occasions where the database needed to be “re-built” to my knowledge. (prior to me starting). Command Software should set up a RAID configuration on the MAIN server. Also there are THREE machines that in the standard configuration that act as servers MAIN, BACKUP, HOST which are each a point of failure.
Cabmaster has some very good features but is very buggy. There is no version control in their development which means if you want a bug fix you get the latest version which could have other bugs. Cabmaster has the BEST XDA software on the market.. by far… very easy to use! No question! Lessons need to be learned from the others!
Autocab is by far the biggest company in the taxi dispatch software market, but has not delivered a product which takes the needs of a live taxi business into account, and are very much “Do it this way”. Stable, but only at the expensive of office productivity, ie can only use the computer for autocab, not email, not yellow pages etc.
Cabmaster, is actually a really good product, however they are let down by a lack of online booking system that integrates into the product. I re-wrote parts of Millers’ online booking website to link to Cabmaster it was put together many years ago in ASP and is vulnerable to SQL injection and needs re-writing with security being it’s focus. I did make a start on a AJAX PHP online booking website that used a MySQL address database which would then insert the job into the live database, but hey he ho.. Millers didn’t see the value in this. (If any company would be interested in this. Get in touch!)
Mercury is a lovely product, well put together and my favourite. My only real concern with it was the holding off for “Mercury 2″ which by all accounts has been work in progress for many years. Needs a “What’s happening now” panel and improvements to their XDA software.
AutoCab 4/10 – Lagging behind on some of the high value technical features of their competitors. Good if not used a booking system before.
Cordic 9/10 – The doggy-do-dahs of the taxi booking software but is CRAZILY priced!!!
Cabmaster 7/10 – Well layed out, easy to use, but does not have a good training manual or training structure. I would have liked to stay with Cabmaster
Mercury 8/10 – Very good product…. in the second stage sales presentation the National Sales manager let the sale go by talking about irrelevant things.
Cabmaster – If you want more top quality features. (They need to sort out the buggy nature of their product)
Mercury – If you want better training and setup support.