Tencent rolls out taxi fare payment app
Smartphone service based on WeChat provides competition for rival Alibaba
Internet giant Tencent has launched an app that allows taxi passengers in Beijing to pay fares via smartphone, providing direct competition for a similar service run by rival Alibaba.
The company has teamed up with Didi Dache, a taxi-booking app and will make the mobile payment service available through WeChat, its text and voice messaging app.
Li Hairu, a manager at Didi Dache, said the new service had been operational since Jan 4, adding that her company’s app already covers 50,000 taxis in Beijing. According to Beijing’s traffic authority, the city has 66,000 registered taxis.
Didi Dache has more than 6 million users registered as passengers in Beijing who will be the main targeted users of the mobile payment service for taxi fares, Li said.
From Friday, the company planned to issue subsidies to users who pay taxi fares via WeChat, with an estimated 10,000 trips likely to be free, Li said.
An employee at Didi Dache, who declined to be identified, insisted the city government had approved the service, although authorities declined to comment when contacted by China Daily.
Tencent’s announcement comes about a month after Kuaidi Dache, another taxi-booking app, began promoting a service using Alipay, a third-party Web payment platform, among cab drivers in the capital.
As of Thursday, more than 20,000 Beijing taxis had started to accept fares via Alipay, according to Zhang Daosheng, a manager at Alipay.
“From the comments of users posted online, we’ve found the popularity of mobile payment for fares is beyond our expectations,” he said.
Cab drivers are given QR codes, he explained, and all passengers need do is scan the code, check the fare and agree at the end of a journey.
In December, the fares for 50,000 taxi journeys were paid via Alipay in Beijing, Zhang said.
Wang Jiansheng, a driver for Beijing Feifang Taxi Co, said the method is convenient for drivers and passengers. He has signed up with Kuaidi Dache.
Few passengers know about it, he said, but those picked up in the city’s central business district and around Financial Street are more likely to choose mobile payment.
Since the beginning of December, Wang said at least one person a day had used a smartphone to pay.
Beijing telecom expert Xiang Ligang predicted a bright future for mobile fare payment services, as they can be easily integrated with the taxibooking apps.
However, regular taxi passenger Lyu Luying said the services show room for improvement.
“I’d like to see the QR code printed on the taxi receipt,” she said. “Passengers could scan the code on the way in and then confirm the fare, then finish the transaction, which could save time.”