Soft meters in theory seem like a great idea, it lowers the cost of your hardware. But in practice its quite the opposite.
Your meter app costs 5 dollars, you now have to purchase a tablet to run that meter app. Which you still should not cheap out on, so lets say at least 250 dollars. You would not want drivers to use their personal devices. (we will get into this below) Because GPS is not as accurate as a physical meter that is calculating distance, you now have to purchase a device to connect to the vehicle, another 100 dollars minimum. Bluetooth OBD2 devices that send data to the soft meter are quite expensive for a reliable device, you can buy some for 10 dollars on eBay, but the Bluetooth fails quickly. At this point you are above the cost of a physical meter, Total 355 dollars.
GPS is very accurate when you are not moving. For GPS to calculate distance while moving, its very inaccurate. The signal hops and we have tested this and drivers will lose money.
We at Record Technologies sell our fully maxed out meter for 295.00 dollars when you are purchasing one unit. We offer volume discounts for everyone. This includes USB, Bluetooth and a RS232 data port. Well equipped.
Informing the public:
A taximeter, as enforced by strict regulations, is inherently designed to protect the public from being charged rates not controlled by municipalities. This is possible through the use of physical seals which are visible externally on the taximeter.
Let's say a city approves the use of an app meter, someone would now have to educate the public on the specifics of that app. The look, colour, design. When a customer gets into the car, they should know first hand that the proper app is being used and set properly to the bylaw. There is really no easy way to do this. There are multiple apps available to be used as a soft meter and it will be hard to educate everyone which app is the proper one to be used.
Manipulating the soft meter:
If you are tech savvy, its very easy to manipulate the soft meter. To prevent this, soft meter developers are trying to put security in place which, of course, can be bypassed. An example would be location specific rates, locking apps for the device itself and so on.
If i have a soft meter on a tablet or smartphone, i can plug it into a computer, and "root" the device. When a person "roots" a device, they are enabled to change anything they want on the device. Without rooting the device, you can still uninstall the app and reinstall it after it has been set or go into the settings of the app and reset the app to original download settings. When the device is rooted, you can "spoof" your location, using a different city's rate which could be higher, you will be able to manipulate the app itself. Or the person can just download an unapproved app and set their own rates.
Of course the easiest way to go around this is to just place your own device in front of the approved soft meter, running the approved app with your own selected rate. No one would know the difference as its looks proper, but is running the wrong rate.
No app developer is able to test their app on every possible device coming onto the market at any given time.
There is no control over the GPS or Bluetooth hardware specific to each device, making it impossible to ensure accuracy in every situation.
If a company is not willing to purchase hardware to run a soft meter, they will probably ask drivers to just buy the app and use their personal device.
Doing so could bring forth all the issues from manipulating the soft meter, they could also get phone calls or text messages during a fare and interrupt the fare.
To conclude, soft meters are not able to meet the strict standards that are in place, which are intended to protect both the public and the driver. It would further encumber municipalities in determining which smartphone / tablet devices, and apps would be approved. Further, education of the public would be necessary.