RSG033: Hansu Kim On Why Flywheel Is Leading Taxis Into The Future

By January 25, 2016November 4th, 20165 Comments


    For most people, taxis are thought of as a dying breed.  But over the years, one company has time and time again popped it’s head up to emerge at the forefront of technology and is often mentioned in the conversation with Uber and Lyft.  At least, in San Francisco.

    Desoto Cab and Flywheel Prius

    RSG033: Hansu Kim On Why Flywheel Is Leading Taxis Into The Future

    I was excited for this interview because frankly, I think taxis have done an awful job of adapting to change in the regulatory environment and dealing with competition from rideshare companies.  Their approach has been one of ‘you have to play by our rules, even if our rules don’t make sense’.

    But Flywheel Taxi (formerly known as DeSoto Cabs) and their CEO Hansu Kim have worked hard to avoid this stereotype and their results have been overwhelmingly positive.  Now, he’s facing an uphill battle to try and get the rest of the taxi industry onboard with his vision.

    If you’d like to read a transcript of this podcast, please click here.


    • Interview today with Hansu Kim, President and Owner of Flywheel Taxi, a taxi company in San Francisco
    • His company is on forefront of the technological revolution in the taxi industry
    • May be the last and only hope for taxi companies
    • Check out Stride Health, a company that connects self-employed workers with health coverage and health care for free. Something I love about Stride Health is your ability to get to talk someone on the phone!

    Interview with Hansu Kim

    • President and Owner of Flywheel Taxi, a taxi company in San Francisco
    • Got into the taxi business in 1999, 2000 with a company using technology called Ricochet
    • Had a consulting firm dealing with technology deployments and ended up representing the taxi industry
    • Camera business for inside and outside taxis in San Francisco
    • Purchased DeSoto Cab in 2011

    DeSoto to Flywheel

    • A big critic of the taxi industry currently
    • Updated DeSoto with newer technology, including cameras and GPS dispatching
    • Worked with a company named Flywheel to bring in e-hailing opportunities for cabs
    • Issues with ride-hailing companies came when they started acting like cabs without following cab regulations
    • Helped developed Flywheel’s app for the taxi industry
    • First app-oriented fleet
    • Taxi industry still not embracing new technology as quickly as they should

    The Taxi Industry and Embracing Change

    • Such a demand for service that even if service was slow, taxis would still be busy – medallion system
    • Taxi industry very traditional
    • Still, the taxi industry won’t disappear anytime soon
    • Taxi cabs don’t just have e-hailing nowadays, though – they have street hailing and so much more
    • Goal is to focus on innovation and service in order to stay in business and grow

    Competing with Uber, Lyft and Other Ride-hailing Companies

    • Taxi industry needs to innovate but also educate themselves on technology out there
    • No building your own in-house app – that takes millions of dollars
    • Flywheel has become the de facto centralized dispatch for all taxi cabs in SF
    • Taxi industry needs to embrace universal apps to make it easier on passengers
    • New platform TaxiOS, which takes all of the equipment traditionally in taxi cabs (like GPS meters) and puts it into smartphones
    • Taxi industry very slow to embrace change, may be acting as if ride-hailing companies like Uber are a fad

    Drivers as a Commodity

    • Drivers initially thought they’d make more with Uber and Lyft, but recent fare reductions shows this isn’t the case
    • Congestion has never been worse in SF
    • Deregulation has its pros and cons, but clearly becoming a problem in terms of driver pay & competition
    • Driverless cars likely years away

    Are Rideshare Drivers Turning to the Taxi Industry?

    • San Francisco Taxi School students – almost half ex-rideshare company drivers looking to move into taxi cab driving
    • Still making money and retaining flexibility
    • Drivers aren’t happy with the way things are going now
    • Regulatory battles and requirements a real challenge for both taxi and rideshare industries

    Regulating the Rideshare Industry

    • Frustrating that there are two sets of rules: one for rideshare companies and one for taxis
    • Regulation necessary in some aspects: safety, for one (both passengers and drivers), insurance another major concern
    • Medallion system seems to be losing privilege
    • Maybe less regulation and more flexibility will come to the taxi industry
    • On-demand vs. pre-arranged designation


    • Questions/comments for Hansu Kim? Email address is hansusf@gmail.com
    • Don’t envy Hansu’s position at all: taxi industry just doesn’t seem to understand what consumers want
    • Taxi industry had such a competitive advantage that they dropped the ball when Uber and Lyft came and disrupted the market
    • Slow to adapt, change and innovate
    • Plenty of room for companies like Flywheel to succeed

    Show Notes

    Stride Health

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    If you’d like to read a transcript of this podcast, please click here

    -Harry @ RSG

    Harry Campbell

    Harry Campbell

    I'm Harry, the owner and founder of The Rideshare Guy Blog and Podcast. I used to be a full-time engineer but now I'm a rideshare blogger! I write about my experience driving for Uber, Lyft, and other services and my goal is to help drivers earn more money by working smarter, not harder.