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A Taxi, by Jingo–er, Zingo

It’s a rainy evening in London, and there’s not an empty taxi in sight. So how did the woman next to you snag a cab whose “for hire” light was off? Perhaps she’s using Zingo, the first cell-phone taxi-hailing service.

Zingo was introduced in April by Manganese Bronze, manufacturer of most of London’s 12,000 licensed black taxis. A customer calls an automated dispatcher from her cell phone, and as she gives her name to an interactive voice-response system, Zingo’s cell-global-identity technology pinpoints her location to within 1,600 feet. Global-positioning satellites identify nearby Zingo taxis and patch through the call to the nearest driver’s mobile phone. The passenger gives the cabbie her precise location and arranges for pickup.

The result: a happy passenger–and a happy driver, who collects about $2.60 for Zingo service on top of the metered fare. (The driver pays a weekly tariff of about $24.) Manganese Bronze says it has fitted 700 London cabs with the technology, but it’s aiming for 3,000 by August 2004.FCS