In the early 2000s, Stagecoach (SGC) was a pioneer of on-demand transport. The company previously operated a ride-sharing service, dubbed Yellow TaxiBus, in Scotland on both fixed route and door-to-door services. The transport company said it was "extremely popular with customers" and a viable value-for-money option for local authorities to improve transport links in both urban and rural areas. Stagecoach believed the service could also boost social inclusion by allowing residents of more remote areas easier access to transport, and help discourage urban dwellers from driving, thus easing city congestion.
Perhaps Stagecoach was too ahead of its time. The service closed after two years of operation after it was deemed commercially unsustainable. The services were more difficult to use than today’s variety. Back then it operated as a 'phone and go' service, since smartphones and apps weren't mainstream. As such, calling a driver 'centre' proved more tedious than booking a driver with just a few taps on a screen or clicks of a computer mouse.
Technology may have caught up in the meantime, but that doesn’t mean companies have succeeded in finding profitable strategies to capitalise on modern-day transport trends. The most ubiquitous name when it comes to on-demand transport is Uber, but don't assume it's profitable. Last year, Uber Technologies reported $50bn-worth (£37.8bn) of total bookings for its ride-hailing and food-delivery services and a 43 per cent increase in full-year revenue to $11.3bn. But it also reported a $1.8bn loss before taxes - albeit a slight improvement on the $2.2bn loss in 2017. Fierce competition has put pressure on Uber to lower prices, and gig economy sceptics have argued that drivers should be paid more.