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Curb gets riders where they want to go with Twilio SMS

Curb’s Twilio-based SMS notification system lets customers hail a cab & get updates on their request via text message.

The Results
Increase in SMS deliverability with Twilio
Taxis operated by Curb nationwide
Cities served by Curb

When a customer is waiting for an update on the status of their taxi, every second counts.

Putting some of the magic back in taxi rides

Curb was founded with the simple idea of making it easy to hail a cab. We’ve all been there: standing on a city street fluttering our arms like balky kites at passing taxis that refuse to stop. Or, equally frustrating, calling a cab company, being put on hold, waiting for a dispatcher and wondering if the cab will ever arrive.

Curb, headquartered in Alexandria, VA, figured technology could revolutionize the experience. In early 2009, it launched iPhone and Android apps, and several months later debuted an SMS service that worked on all mobile phones.

The Curb service solved a number of problems. First, ordering a cab happened as quickly as you could type your address into your smartphone or send an SMS. Second, Curb sent automatic updates, so you didn’t have to wonder if your cabbie got lost or if the dispatcher had your address wrong. Additional features included the ability to track the arrival of your cab on a map and charge the ride to your credit card.

The apps caught on quickly, and Curb’s growth exploded. The service is now available in 40 U.S. cities, and the apps are featured on hundreds of devices, including Android, BlackBerry and Palm operating systems. International expansion plans are in the works.

Rapid growth brings new challenges

But success came at a cost. Before too long, Curb’s home-grown SMS system started to fail under the increasing volume. Message queues began to back up and overflow, causing parts of the system to spontaneously shut down. This meant some SMS messages got lost, and even worse, some taxis never arrived.

That was when the team turned to Twilio SMS. After looking at multiple providers, they decided that Twilio’s cloud communications platform was the most flexible, scalable, and reliable. “Twilio seemed to have new technology, and its roadmap suggested that we would be able to do a lot of innovative things with them,” said Jay McClary, vice president of marketing. “The pricing was also right.”

Twilio has really improved our visibility into our text services and the time required to manage and maintain them. There's no maintenance work for us since everything is in the cloud.

Jay McClary, VP of Marketing, Curb

Twilio’s volume discounts—and its practice of passing on lower negotiated rates to its customers—meant Curb’s communications costs would decrease as the popularity of its service increased.

Curb began moving taxi fleets to Twilio in the fall of 2011. “Moving to Twilio was a seamless technical process,” McClary said. And the results were as good as Curb had hoped. “We monitored throughput speed and uptime and found we were getting near flawless performance,” McClary said. Message throughput per minute was over 100 times better than the previous system, and uptime was 99%.


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