Taxi Safety Monitoring Solution

28 July 2008 at 11:24 | Posted in Inventions, Taxi Driver Safety, Taxi Passenger Safety | Leave a comment
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[Category: Inventions. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

My girlfriend often has to take a taxi home when she finishes work. The problem is, she is rather attractive and a small percentage of taxi drivers are, well, perverts.

A few times per year, in all cities I have so far lived in on several different continents, stories pop up in the news about taxi drivers assaulting their female passengers (taxi drivers also get assaulted by criminals and scum, but that is another story).

The above issues, plus the fact that my girlfriend is not comfortable taking taxis because she fears one day a driver might be a truly nasty one (yesterday she called me from a taxi as she was worried about the driver), inspired me to the following.

What if a service were available that would make women feel safe taking taxis at all times? I know some cities have “safe taxi” services but these tend to be either not available when you need them (small numbers of taxis in the company), expensive, or both. So I came up with the following:

In its most basic form, it could be a cellphone application in which the woman passenger would enter, at the start of the journey in the taxi, the taxi number, if required the taxi company name (depending on the numbering system in the city concerned) and the destination of the taxi (this would assume the cellphone is GPS enabled and would “snapshot” the start of the journey at the time of entry; if there is no GPS in the cellphone, the starting point would also need to be manually added).

The cellphone application would send the data to the cellular service provider (Vodafone, Orange, etc.). The cellular service provider would have an application that tracks the approximate journey time. At the end of say the journey time +5, an operator calls the cellphone and asks the owner of the cellphone to confirm the journey was OK. Failure to respond would trigger an alert and initially a call to the taxi driver concerned, and if there would be any doubt, an emergency call could be placed. This service could be charged for as a subscription by the cellular service provider, which could distribute the application as a download to its customers.

As an extra security step, the user of system could be asked to use two types of passwords, one meaning “all OK” and the other meaning “distress” irrespective of what the user would otherwise say on the phone (she could be under duress to say the journey went OK, but by providing the “distress” password the operator would know there is a problem).

The system could be taken one step further by requiring taxi drivers to have a transponder in their cabs which would enable the taxi to be tracked via satellite at all times.

This transponder could then also provide the taxi details (taxi company, taxi number, and departure location based on GPS) via bluetooth or similar to the cellphone of the user, if equipped with (a somewhat more advanced version of) the security application described before. The information would be displayed on the cellphone of the user enabling her to verify the details (to ensure the transponder provides the correct taxi number for example). If the transponder were not installed or switched off, the cellphone application could warn the user at the time of entering the taxi.

With this system, the passenger entering the taxi would only have to provide the destination, after which the cellphone company could track the taxi and its passenger (via an automated application that hooks into the GPS and the transponder). The moment the passenger leaves the taxi, the transponder in the taxi would send a “disconnect” to the system (for example triggered by the bluetooth of the passenger going out of range in the approximate destination area), and this would trigger an alert at the cellphone company to call the passenger to confirm safe arrival at destination.

Also, during the trip, as the taxi would be tracked by GPS, a warning could be sent to the system if the taxi strayed considerably from the most reasonable route to the destination.

Finally, the system could be equipped with a combination of alert keys on the cellphone: if, during the journey, something ontoward happened, the user could press a combination of two or three keys simultaneously (this requirement to prevent accidental triggering) which would cause a distress call to be sent out immediately.

The above is something that a software company specialising in mobile software applications could take up. Conceivably, the software could be a modified version of software presently in use with courier companies to track vehicles and parcels.

Cellphone operators would implement the system as it would provide a source of revenue through subscriptions.

Taxi companies could differentiate themselves by implementing the system and marking their vehicles with stickers indicating support for it.

Note: until there is such a system, a woman entering a taxi could text the taxi number, origin, destination and estimated arrival time to a friend. Then subsequently call the friend upon safe arrival at destination. This would at least provide a basic measure of security.

Incidentally, the more advanced version system could be adapted to also protect the safety of taxi drivers, by allowing the driver to key in the destination of the journey and a risk level: for example if the driver based on his/her experience thinks that a particular passenger or load of passengers pose a potential threat, a code could be entered indicating an elevated risk level, which in turn would trigger an alert at the cellphone provider company to monitor this particular journey and call the driver at its completion to ensure all is OK. Additionally, the system with the distress keys outlined above could also be included in this system (possibly using the taxi computer rather than a cellphone).

If you like this idea and you work in a type of industry where this is relevant, I would be happy to discuss in more detail, answer questions or assist in other ways. For details and contact information please see the “About itimes3” page.

George Spark

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