This is a top 3 comparison of some of the most popular taxi and ridesharing services I came across so far…
#1: FREE NOW (MYTAXI)
According to the website, Mytaxi (now “FREE NOW”) is available in over 100 cities in 9 European countries. However, although certain cities might not be listed, you might still be able to take advantage of it anyway; for instance, I was able to book a ride in Münster, Osnabrück and Stade, none of which I could find on the list of available cities.
Booking a ride with the app is pretty straightforward. When tracking is active, it already suggests a departure address; however, please note that, depending on the GPS signal, you should look at and perhaps edit your departure address anyway.
With FREE NOW, there is no need to enter your desired destination in first place, but if you do, you can already check the estimated price in beforehand (that’s what I personally prefer). Before booking, you can also choose a type of car and if you travel regularly with the same driver, he or she is also just a click away (I haven’t yet used it myself though because I don’t use FREE NOW very frequently).
At last, choose your payment method (cash, card, PayPal or ApplePay), click the „book now“ button or „later“ to set a date and time for a pre-booking.
Once booked and a driver is found, the app will determine the arrival time of the car and provide you with some additional information, such as the driver’s name, contact details and the car’s number plate.
Unfortunately you cannot really determine the current location of the driver (sighted people can check it on a map shown on the screen), but in case of the app claims that the driver has arrived and you can’t find him or her, you can text or call the driver and work something out. If you tell the driver where you are and point out your visual handicap, he or she will also get out and find you.
During the ride, the app gives you an estimated arrival time at your destination and, once arrived and you decided to pay online, you can check the exact price, perhaps give a tip, rate the driver and eventually push the button to pay.
FREE NOW recently introduced “Match” in Hamburg and Berlin, a new feature that allows you to share the taxi with other passengers heading into the same direction. When „Match“ is activated, you additionally get a fixed price for the ride which, because you share the ride, can be up to 50% cheaper than a normal ride; and even if the app doesn’t find any other passengers to share the car with, you still pay the fixed price (and nothing more) either way.
MOIA is a startup which recently launched its ridesharing services in Hamburg and Hannover and their electric busses can take up to 6 passengers.
For booking a MOIA ride, you need to download their app and sign up.
Then, choose your departure address and your destination (NOTE that MOIA services are limited to the area they operate in). An actual pre-booking is not possible yet; so far, you can choose to be picked up now, within 5+ minutes or within 10+ minutes.
As far as accompanying is concerned, you can specify up to 5 more people.
At last, push the button to request an offer. As for departures within the next few minutes, they might decline your request due to their current traffic, but requesting a ride in 10+ minutes always worked for me; however, the waiting time can be a little longer.
If the request was successful, the app will provide you with an estimated arrival time, the location of the virtual bus stop (street name + house number) and payment methods to choose from. They will also give you a cheap and fixed price in beforehand, but how much you pay depends on how many people you chose to travel with.
The more difficult part for blind and partially sighted users is confirming the booking because instead of a button, you have to do a swipe-gesture in a certain area of the screen. Double tap or any other VoiceOver gestures I tried don’t work and even with VoiceOver turned off, I didn’t yet manage to swipe properly anyway and my sighted companion I traveled with also needed a few attempts until it finally worked.
Nevertheless, when the booking went through, the app provides you with the MOIA bus number and suggests a time when you should start heading towards the virtual bus stop in order to reach the bus in time; but especially if one is not familiar with the surrounding streets, it is recommended to head off earlier anyway.
My biggest worry was not hearing the bus approaching, which would make it more tricky to find the bus if I travel on my own; however, I found the sound of the MOIA bus pretty characteristic.
Inside the MOIA there is plenty of space for six people and every vehicle comes with privacy seats, reading lamps, USB ports to charge your mobile device, free WIFI and a big screen showing the next stops and other information, but I could also find the most important information about my ride in the app as well.
Although the ride took a little longer than expected, it was a very cheap and comfortable ride and I found the price more than reasonable. For the time being, the booking process is a little painful for iOS users (I can’t speak for Android users though) but, according to the MOIA customer service I am in touch with, they are working on it to make their app more accessible in the near future.
Uber is a ridesharing service which relies on private drivers who offer their vehicle for Uber rides, but they also forward you to normal taxi drivers.
Booking an Uber ride is pretty straightforward, but in comparison to FREE NOW, you have to set a destination and any stops in between in beforehand in order to pre-calculate the estimated price for your desired ride; spontaneous detours won’t be accepted if not specified during the booking process.
One problem some of my friends and I encountered a couple of times already is locating the Uber driver. Especially when it comes to crowded areas, it can happen that the Uber driver will park a few blocks away from the spot specified during the booking process. Although it is possible to contact the driver, our drivers either refused to get out and look for us at our spot (we told them about our visual handicap) or we had issues getting in touch with our driver.
In any case, it is not possible to determine the uber’s location as a blind person (a map shows the current position of the driver for sighted users) and as we couldn’t find our driver, Uber charged us around 10 Euros, more or less. They will also charge you with a waiting fee if you couldn’t find the Uber within 2 minutes and, the longer it takes you, the more it increases.
Nonetheless, if all goes fine, Uber will drop you off at your destination without a problem.
However, I personally would avoid requesting an Uber ride at crowded areas, especially at train stations, airports or other spots with high traffic. It might well be that the drivers can’t park at certain spots but for a blind traveler, it is impossible to determine the driver’s location before and after arrival.
To wrap it up, I think FREE NOW so far is the ridesharing service I could rely on the most, MOIA and UBER following right after (putting MOIA’s app accessibility issues aside). However, whereas FREE NOW and UBER put you in direct contact with the driver, I couldn’t yet find a way to get in touch with the MOIA driver in beforehand, which might possibly be important if you would like to inform the driver about your handicap and special needs, and let it just be a text message.
As far as UBER is concerned, I don’t think that the possible issues stated above will completely stop me from using UBER; but I became more careful with UBER and would rather choose an alternative when available.