(Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

The D.C. Taxicab Commission announced this week that it will begin beta testing in March of an app that will allow customers to hail cabs using their smartphones.

Starting next year, all D.C. taxicab drivers will be required to use the Universal DC TaxiApp. D.C. is the first city to launch its own dedicated app, according Neville Waters, spokesman for the D.C. Taxicab Commission. Chicago and New York also are considering similar ventures. In D.C., commission officials hope the app will provide local cabdrivers with another tool to compete with popular smartphone-based services such as UberX, Lyft and Sidecar, which have proved wildly successful with consumers.

Ron Linton, chairman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission, first announced the plan for a universal app in October.

Several private companies, including Curb, as well as local cab companies including Yellow Cab, offer their own apps, and Waters said that drivers will be allowed to continue using those as tools to connect with customers. Passengers will be able to pay their fares using D.C.’s universal app, which may eliminate a common customer complaint: cabdrivers who refuse to take credit cards or who say their credit card readers are broken.

The app will be managed by an industry co-op that will set rates, manage its operation and be responsible for marketing the app to the public. D.C. taxicab drivers will still be allowed to accept street hails that will pay current posted rates.

Waters said that the hope is that the app will be rolled out for use by the city’s 7,000 taxicab drivers by spring.