Limousine drivers operating with the new Ride Genie smartphone application system say the process of requesting a ride will get easier for customers who use the service.
Integrity Vehicle Solutions, a Las Vegas-based technology company spun off from the Frias Transportation Group, unveiled the new app Wednesday and 400 sedans, limousines and sport utility vehicles are operating with the app.
Mark James, CEO of Integrity, said he expects 80 percent of the limousine fleet in Southern Nevada will be enabled with Ride Genie technology and taxi cabs also will be using the app within weeks.
James also said Ride Genie would be operating in other major cities in the United States within two months.
At the end of the day Wednesday, Integrity did not have a count on the number of apps downloaded on the first day.
“It’s going to make things a lot easier for end users,” said Paul Poteat, director of technology development for Bell Transportation, parent company of the Bell Trans and Presidential Limousine companies.
Poteat coordinated the set-up between Bell and Integrity and explained that using the app is easier than scheduling a reservation and the customer has the added benefit of monitoring the location of the vehicle assigned to the ride.
Customers must first download the free app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. A customer must fill out a registration form, which includes providing a credit card or Pay Pal account number for ride payments.
When a customer requests a ride, the closest available vehicle is contacted and when the driver accepts the assignment, both the driver and the customer are notified by text and have screens with maps that show the location of each party.
If the closest vehicle doesn’t accept the assigned ride after 30 seconds, the system moves to the next closest vehicle until the ride is assigned.
James said that part of the operation may be the most ground breaking because he said it’s one of the first times that owners in Southern Nevada’s highly competitive limousine and taxi industries agreed to work within a system with competitors.
David Wong, a driver with Presidential Limousines, got his first chance to use the app several weeks ago when Integrity was beta testing the product and regulators wanted to see how it worked.
Once a customer presses the button to hail a vehicle, the closest vehicle — Wong’s in this case — gets a high-pitched whistle on his computer tablet. Once he accepted the ride, he was given a route to the customer.
When the ride was over, the system tabulated the costs and sent a receipt to the customer. Customers also have the opportunity to override the 20 percent tip that is built into the billing and rate the driver and the vehicle for company feedback.
Right now, most of the companies using the system are using a universal tariff approved for Integrity, which means customers will pay the normal charges for the ride plus $5.
A workshop meeting on developing tariffs for e-hailing is scheduled Thursday morning by the Nevada Transportation Authority and the first tariff requests are scheduled to be heard by the three-member commission at Tuesday’s monthly meeting.
James is hoping the public will participate in the meetings to give regulators feedback about the app and how it’s used.
While local residents and frequent Las Vegas visitors are likely to be the first to download Ride Genie, James expects numbers to grow as the system spreads nationwide and occasional Las Vegas visitors learn of the app’s existence.
Representatives of Uber, a San Francisco-based ridesharing company that says it is trying to establish a toehold in Southern Nevada, was unfazed by Integrity’s announcement.
“Innovation is more than just creating an app,” the company said in a statement issued late Wednesday.
“This is not innovation — it’s the same old model of hidden fees, long wait times and unreliable service dressed up under the guise of technology,” the statement said. “Uber offers convenient, affordable, seamless rides and Las Vegas deserves Uber.”
James said earlier this week that he was thankful that Uber had played up the need for new transportation technology in Southern Nevada, crediting the company’s “whining and complaining” with building awareness that Ride Genie would be able to take advantage of.
Uber and another ridesharing company, Lyft, have been reluctant to enter the Southern Nevada market because it could not be profitable under some of the current limousine and taxi regulations.
Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at email@example.com or 702-477-3893. Follow him on Twitter @RickVelotta.