File picture: Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters.

Johannesburg - The SA Meter Taxi Association, which has been unhappy about growing competition from ride-sharing app Uber, announced on Thursday that it had started registering drivers with its own new smartphone app called YooKoo Ride.

The move indicates a shift from physical confrontations between metered taxi drivers, who are losing market share, and Uber. In July an Uber driver died from his injuries after his car was set alight near Loftus Versveld Stadium in Pretoria. 

The SA Meter Taxi Association, which has persistently denied any involvement in the attacks on Uber drivers, said the driver registration process marks the first stage of the rollout that will lead to the creation of the largest taxi hailing service in South Africa.

It estimated that more than 180 000 vehicles would partner with YooKoo Ride. 

In a statement the taxi association said, without mentioning Uber, that the "taxi hailing" market in South Africa was "dominated by overseas-based companies who are unregulated".

“We have agreed as an association that we need to embrace technology that would make it simpler for our customers to use our services,” said Taxi Association spokesman Reuben Mzayiya.  

In March, the taxi association and YooKoo Ride announced their partnership, which they said will see South African meter taxi companies using the YooKoo Ride cab hailing technology, developed locally.

Mzayiya said cab companies had already been identified for registration and they were starting to come online. 

The registration will include comprehensive driver vetting and criminal checks complete with fingerprint technology to ensure optimum security and ease of mind for customers. A comprehensive customer relations and driver training programme will follow.

“We want to assure our customers that we are committed to providing the safest and most reliable offering in the market. With the benefit of being part of a large and regulated association we believe that this will serve to the customer’s advantage. No other service providers can match our offering,” said Mzayiya.

YooKoo Technologies MD Temesgen Tesfay said: “We have been testing the software for the best part of three months and we are confident that users will be most impressed with its functionality. 

"It is also easy to use for drivers, allowing for seamless communication between passenger and driver. We believe that it is just the ingredient to assist the meter cab industry to play an important role in SA’s commuter transportation industry.”

African News Agency (ANA)