If you thought trying to catch a cab in New York at rush time was hard, try finding your Uber in a sea of other ride-share vehicles when all you have to go on primarily is the same glowing decal dozens of other people waiting on the corner are searching for and an eight-digit alphanumeric license plate.
But as Halo Cars expands its service to New York, things could get easier for Lyft and Uber customers. In addition to seeing a digital ad for a hotel or moving company on the top of the vehicle waiting for them, some passengers may also easily see from the vehicles' license plate in large, glowing numbers and letters on the roof of the car.
Halo Cars is a literal mobile digital advertising platform bringing dynamic hyperlocal targeted advertising to the outdoor display market. The company recruits full-time Uber and Lyft drivers willing to attach its lightweight smart screen on the top of their vehicles. As they ferry around passengers, pedestrians in targeted geofenced areas might see ads for advertised products and services.
While the company is taking mobile advertising to the next level, it's also making the ride-hailing industry a bit safer for customers.
At first it was a little funny when people heard stories of strangers jumping into the backseat of random idling cars, mistaking some unsuspecting person for their rideshare. Then tragic stories appeared in the news about sexual assault and murder committed by men pretending to be Uber drivers.
Halo Cars co-founder Faizan Bhatty saw an easy way he could fix this problem by displaying the vehicle's license plate that passengers use to help identify their driver on the large roof-mounted screen.
"We saw a few of those articles that came out and figured we had the platform, we have what we need to build this," said Bhatty in an interview. The company already had the Uber's license plate information obtained through the enrollment application, so they added a feature in their app that with the press of a button displays it on the screen until a built-in timer runs out or is switched off.
It's not just safety that has improved, but the overall ride experience. This feature is cuts down on the phone tag and driving around needed for drivers to find their passengers. Their customers no longer need to walk into the street and behind the car to check the license plate so they can identify just which red Prius waiting for them at the airport is theirs. Another benefit is that Halo says this feature has lead to higher ratings and tips.
For these reasons Lyft and Uber executives are also fans of this technology, not to mention that it enables their drivers to supplement the revenue earned through them, up to $400 per month.
So far, only full-time ride-share drivers in Philadelphia are able to access this app and use the license plate display. However, the company recently closed an "pre-seed funding round" from a group of undisclosed angle investors that enabled the startup to move to New York City and begin testing with a small fleet of drivers.
In the next few weeks they will more formally launch their service, and Bhatty says Halo Cars will expand into Chicago by the end of August, and Dallas and potentially Atlanta by the end of the year.