Urgent.ly Publishes Roadside Assistance API

One of the more worrying moments in anyone’s life is waiting by the side of the road for a tow truck to come. It's hard to know for certain when the truck will arrive because there’s not much in the way of actual information available. To solve that issue, Urgent.ly created a mobile computing application that makes it possible for motorists to not only call for assistance, but to see exactly how far away that tow truck is.

Now Urgent.ly has published a REST API that makes it possible for car dealers, for example, to include Urgent.ly within the applications they share with customers.

Urgent.ly CTO Surendra Goel says he isn’t sure exactly how other developers might want to incorporate the Urgent.ly API, but it could serve as an alternative to having a membership in, for example, the Automobile Association of America.

Goel says tow truck drivers are signing up to participate in a business model that is similar to the one that Uber applies to the taxi industry. Armed with a smartphone, the tow truck drivers signal Urgent.ly whether they are available. Urgent.ly then determines where a driver is and relays that information to the motorist waiting by the side of the road.

Tow truck drivers prefer this model, says Goel, because unlike in other services, they can opt to assist people who are relatively close by rather than having to take every job assigned to them regardless of location. In addition, Urgent.ly makes sure they get paid within 48 hours, versus other services that require them to process bills and then wait months to get paid. The result is that the tow truck drivers wind up making three times as much as they would working through a traditional roadside assistance service, says Goel.

Motorists, meanwhile, prefer the service because rather than paying an annual fee, they only have to pay for roadside assistance when they need it.

Urgent.ly also makes available a Family View feature through which parents, for example, can see where their children have broken down and how far away assistance is at any given moment.

Goel says that exposing the API will increase the number of drivers who make use of the Urgent.ly service, which in turn will entice more tow truck drivers to sign up. It remains to be seen to what degree Urgent.ly will disrupt the way roadside assistance is delivered. But if Uber is any sign of the times, chances are high that the way roadside assistance is provided is about to significantly change.

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