São Paulo city readies own app to support taxi drivers

The app will provide features offered in mobility apps, such as estimate fares and ride data.

The city of São Paulo will launch its own mobility application to help taxi drivers compete in the sharing economy.

The SPTaxi tool will be available to a limited number of drivers from January 2018. It is result of a project led by Department of Transport and Prodam, the city's information technology company.

The app is entirely based on a tool launched earlier this year by the city of Rio de Janeiro. The budget to implement it in São Paulo, including customizations and local infrastructure, is hoped to be under 2 million reais ($633,000) - which is the amount spent by the Rio administration to create the app from scratch.

SPTaxi will equip traditional taxi drivers with features that mobility apps like Uber already provide, such as georeferenced ride data to improve passenger safety, as well as fare estimates and discounts.

Currently, there are approximately 38,000 taxi drivers in São Paulo. According to the São Paulo Mayor's Office, the intention of the SPTaxi is to help drivers improve their operation rather than compete with existing mobility apps.

São Paulo Mayor João Doria, who has been promoting his "smart city" plans, is under pressure by taxi drivers - especially after launching a tender for staff transportation, won by local ridesharing firm 99. The SPTaxi launch is therefore seen as an attempt to please taxi drivers and unions.

Last month, a Senate vote for legislation aimed at making the operation of Uber and other mobility apps unviable was postponed.