Ask your average London cabbie or New York cab driver whether they know what bitcoin is and they’re likely to give you an “eh?” and a blank look.
With this in mind, the likelihood of finding a taxi that accepts payment in digital currency is extremely slim. However, slowly but surely, this is starting to change.
Lithuanian taxi firm JazzExpress started accepting bitcoin on 20th September this year. Jonas Gilys, development director at the company, said he and his colleagues first heard about bitcoin back in 2009, when they also started mining the cryptocurrency.
“We decided to start accepting bitcoins in our taxis in order to help increase the impact of bitcoin – we love the idea of bitcoin and we want it to become more popular. Also it gives more flexibility for our customers and helps us to save money on fees,” he said.
The company currently operates 13 vehicles in Lithuania’s capital city Vilnius, but hopes to expand its fleet to 20 by the end of the year.
Gilys explained the process of paying for a taxi journey in bitcoins:
“All JazzExpress cabs are equipped with a Samsung Tablet. We are working with BitPay, which provides us with software that generates a QR code at the end of trip, the customer then scans the QR code, pushes the send button, and the payment is made.”
The taxi firm has already received a few fares in bitcoins, but hopes it’ll become a more regular method of payment in the near future.
A slow start
Cumbria Cabs in England is also now enabling customers to pay in bitcoins, but is yet to receive a fare in BTC.
“We only started accepting bitcoins using BitPay a couple of months ago, and we are still awaiting our first BTC-paying customer,” said Alistair Nixon, owner for Cumbria Cabs.
“I was attracted by the very low charges for sending and receiving payments when compared with credit cards, PayPal and other online payments,” he told The Cumberland News.
Nixon went on to say he thinks paying for a taxi journey in bitcoin will appeal to the many customers from outside the UK he takes to and from airports as it means they don’t have to make sure they are carrying local currency.
Another English taxi driver – Daniel Hart, who is based in Herefordshire – is not only accepting payment in bitcoin, he’s actively encouraging it by offering a 10% discount to those who pay in the cryptocurrency.
Hart told Radio 4, back in April: “When I first heard about bitcoin a few years ago, I thought [it had the] potential to solve a lot of problems. I looked into it and thought it had a future.”
The technology lover, whose taxi is equipped with free Wi-Fi for its customers, also runs a “Bitcoin coaching service”, charging 0.25 bitcoin per hour to teach people the ins and outs of the digital currency.
Meanwhile Go-Taxi is trying to spread the adoption of bitcoin by taxi drivers across the world. The company offers a cloud-hosted booking and despatch system to taxi firms across the world. Customers can book a cab via the Go-Taxi app and then pay for their journey in bitcoin via the app, too.
Tim Tuxworth, founder of the company, which is based in Edmonton, Canada, said: “We are looking to provide an international service, one where people can use our system to get a taxi anywhere and pay in bitcoin.”
“The limitations and costs associated with credit cards are prohibitive. Virtual cash, on the other hand, seems to offer a simple and practical way to pay by phone, or app, for a taxi ride.”
Go-Taxi is already being used in a number of locations including Hong Kong, North Carolina, Jersey Shore, Tampa Bay, Chicago and Florida, but the company hopes to continue expanding its reach across the globe. Hopefully there’ll soon be a taxi firm near you that will take you from A to B in return for BTC.
Would you pay for taxi journeys in bitcoin if you had the opportunity?