Software development firm Autocab is trialling a chatbot booking service with its app for local taxi firms.

App iGo allows users to book a taxi in any area of the UK as the app connects them with local firms.

The company has now included artificial intelligence technology in the form of a messenger chatbot, which customers wanting to book a cab can talk to through their Facebook Messenger.

The user can book a taxi entirely through the message, with tracking options available.

“The reason we did this is that it has really helped our customers to capture the next generation of travellers,” CEO Safa Alkateb told BusinessCloud.

“People younger than me prefer to download an app and book a taxi that way and get the tracking, but if you look at the 16-25 year olds of today, they actually don't like to download an app, they think it's too much work to download and register.

“They're spending a vast majority of their time on social media apps, so if you can bring the booking experience right to that then you will engage that portion of the population.”

The firm plans to roll the chatbot service out to other social media platforms in the future.

“Obviously you can't just talk to it about your personal problems but in terms of getting you a taxi it's well adverse to do that job for you,” joked Alkateb.

iGo's network has over 450 local taxi companies in the UK. The company transitioned to a Software as a Service model last year, allowing cab firms to adopt the software for their own services.

When asked about the future of chatbots taking over from traditional call bookings, Alkateb said: “I think that's possible in the future.

“Looking at the stats for our customers, there's a definite rise in people booking digitally vs phone.

“Knowing how things are there might still be a small portion of the population that will continue to prefer to call but it may become marginal in terms of the number of bookings.

“I'd say if there's people who want to do it by calling there will be someone who will take their call to give them a service.”

The company plans to expand its markets to other countries in Europe. It currently operates in the US, Spain and Portugal.

The company currently employs 150 staff globally, with 110 staff in its headquarters in Cheadle, Manchester.