New concept in taxi service launched in the PhilippinesPosted on May 19th, 2012 under Technology Milestones
The 7-inch monitor that will serve as gateway between the Grab-a-Cab system and the taxi driver [photo by Charles Buban via Inquirer.net]
Convenience is the name of the game: We would rather dial just one number if we want to order food in any restaurant of our choosing.
Newspaper? A number of us now want to avail of the digital edition, which they find as a better way to get informed than walking to a nearby newsstand every morning.
Very soon, the same could be said about taking a taxi ride because starting March 15, commuters in Metro Manila will only need to dial one hotline number—Grab-A-Cab’s 525-2222—to be able to quickly get a ride from any of the five reputable taxi companies.
Grab-A-Cab’s chief technical officer, Dennis Ng, explained that Grab-A-Cab employs a system that is better than calling a particular taxi hotline.
“Grab-A-Cab is an Internet-based taxi dispatch service, designed primarily for small- to mid-sized taxi fleets. It does not require full-scale enterprise level fleet management capabilities,” explained Ng.
The system is available as a subscription-based monthly service. With the taxi operator paying just P3,500 a month, the company will enjoy trip booking and dispatching functions, in-vehicle mobile data terminals and airtime; automatic vehicle location; electronic card and support, maintenance, and training.
At the heart of Grab-A-Cab system is a 7-inch monitor that flashes pertinent information to the taxi driver.
Here’s how the system works: As the passenger calls the Grab-A-Cab hotline, an agent on the other end of the line dispatches booking request to the system.
Within 3 kilometers
The system will automatically select, for example, five taxi units—doesn’t matter which taxi company—roaming within a three-kilometer radius of the passenger’s location.
Such job request will flash in the monitors of the automatically selected units, informing the driver of the passenger’ name, location and destination.
The request will be awarded to the driver who will acknowledge first—by touching the “FREE” button on the monitor. Otherwise, the system will just select the one unit nearest to the passenger’s location.
Once the taxi unit has been identified, the Grab-A-Cab agent will then call back the passenger to inform the taxi’s plate number and time of arrival.
Eric Ortiz, president of Grab-A-Cab, said Grab-A-Cab’s taxi dispatching system should also provide passengers better service since they will be assured of getting a well-maintained unit (all units subscribed to the Grab-A-Cab are no older than 2006 models). Moreover, the passenger could easily trace the unit should he or she leave something in the car or have a complaint to file.
In addition, Ortiz plans to extend some conveniences to its customers such as self-serve booking options (via www.grab-a-cab.ph) that this new system could support.
Even drivers will enjoy some sort of protection as the system provides them with a panic button that they could touch should they encounter a holdup or figured in an accident.
Through the GPS-equipped monitor installed in each taxi, Grab-A-Cab agents as well as taxi operators will be able to map the exact location of each unit and display it on a PC screen. This ensures safety of both the driver and the unit.
Prevent dispatch mistakes
“Our system prevents the instances wherein responding taxis are not telling their actual locations on radio (so they could outsmart their fellow drivers when they are alerted of a possible passenger). The system also prevents dispatcher favoritism, reduces staffing costs and dispatch mistakes. These instances often results in undue delay and passenger inconvenience,” explained Ortiz.
He added that the introduction of the taxi dispatching system could also minimize idle time of taxi drivers as job assignments are now efficiently distributed.
Ng informed that Grab-A-Cab has already subscribed 225 units from five companies operating around Metro Manila, 100 units coming from the company, 24/7 Taxi.
“We chose the Grab-A-Cab for its reliability and functionality. Having used a two-way radio dispatch system for some time, we had a fair estimate of what we were looking for. We believe that Grab-A-Cab’s new technology will take us to the next level of efficiency and help us provide excellent customer service,” said Margie Rodriguez, GM of 24/7 Taxi, which recently replaced its two-way radio system.
Ng added that communicating over common cellular networks has also made it very cost-effective for small- to medium-sized taxi companies to take advantage of computerized fleet management systems because this eliminates the need for up front communications infrastructure costs.
He explained that the taxi operator will only have to pay a monthly subscription fee of P3,500, with the monitor already provided free to each of the taxi unit.
The passenger will only be charged an additional P50 on top of the flag down rate.
“There is nothing experimental in Grab-A-Cab’s system considering similar ones are already in place in big cities like New York and Hong Kong and in countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Moreover, this business has the potential for growth in this country that boasts around 50,000 taxi units, close to 28,000 of which are plying here in Metro Manila,” said Ng.
(Story courtesy of Charles E. Buban of the Philippine Daily Inquirer)