Kakao Mobility, Korea’s largest taxi-hailing service provider, will launch a new feature aimed at providing better access to cab-calling for disabled people, older adults and pregnant women.
The new feature will allow users, when they are calling a ride, to specifically select different types of cars that cater to their transit needs, just as they might select a Kakao Venti, Blue or Black cab. Previously, such specific cars could only be requested online or by phone, or in Daejeon, through the “Sarang Nanum Call” service.
Those who require a car equipped with a ramp or lift can easily hail one through the Kakao T mobile app with the new feature, while disabled users who might prefer a miniature cab can easily access those as well.
Kakao will launch the tool, which will be part of the Kakao T mobile app, in collaboration with Kornatus, the Korean startup behind Banban Taxi, a company spokesperson said Tuesday.
The service will hold a trial run in Daejeon and then gradually expand to other locations. No official title or launch date has been released.
Inclusive mobility infrastructure has been slow to roll out in Korea, especially in suburban areas. The OECD’s 2017 report on urban transportation in the country found urban transport accessibility to be highest in areas that are densely populated.
Local advocacy group Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination has carried out more than 470 protests since 2021 calling for improvements to the accessibility of public transportation.
The Kakao T app holds 95 percent of domestic market share among taxi-hailing apps, with around 30 million users. Despite its dominance in the market, an accessibility service has been practically absent from the app up to now. The new tool is expected to make cab service more convenient for populations who might currently face barriers to using it.
The number of vehicles designated for transportation-vulnerable individuals will also increase. Those run by local governments have been so far limited to wheelchair accessible taxis, and the total number of operational models has been small. One taxi must be made available for every 150 disabled people under the Act on Promotion of the Transportation Convenience of Mobility Disadvantaged Persons, but only Gyeonggi and South Gyeongsang have so far met the requirement.
Transportation-vulnerable people have reportedly waited more than an hour for specialized taxis due to the insufficient number of vehicles.
The new option is an expansion project of Kakao Mobility, which aims to become a super app. The company has added services to meet other customer demands — for example, operating taxis customized for pet and foreigner use.
“The enterprise will contribute to the public interest in addition to boosting the number of app users, as there is high demand for taxis for the transportation-disadvantaged in suburban areas,” an industry insider said.
Such transit users make up 30 percent of the total population, or around 15.51 million people, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport’s report on transportation for mobility disadvantaged persons published in 2022.
Under the Transport Ministry’s criteria, those falling under the transportation-disadvantaged category are those who have difficulty moving around in their daily lives: disabled people, the elderly, pregnant women, children and passengers with infants. Children and passengers with infants, however, will not be eligible to take Kakao Mobility’s taxis for the transportation disadvantaged.
The service is expected to have a small profit margin, as Kakao Mobility does not plan to receive additional commission on taxis for the new option.
“We are getting involved [in this service] for social responsibility and for a collective good rather than to make profit,” a spokesperson for Kakao Mobility said. “We will continue in our efforts to strengthen our social responsibility.”
BY KIM JI-A, KIM JU-YEON [[email protected]]
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