October 29, 2013
An App To Combat Unscrupulous Taxi Drivers
It’s a problem that exists all over the world: taxi drivers taking us for a ride in more ways than one. A new app aims to help customers feel that they are not at the mercy of complete strangers in some random, unconnected location.
The whole taxi experience is a bit of an odd one, when you think about it. To be thrown into a confined space with a complete stranger. A confined space that they have total control of. The situation can lead to a rewarding experience sometimes, if conversations are struck up then people might make a short-term new friend or acquire some local knowledge that they didn’t have before. Or they may be exposed to some opinions so comically extreme that they didn’t previously think them possible.
The pitfalls of getting a taxi are that, since we are at the mercy of the driver, we may end up paying more than we need to because unless we know the exact distance of our journey, as well as the intricacies of their fare system, then it’s difficult to know if a fare is reasonable or not. Even if drivers are using a meter they can still pop on some little extras or drive around a bit more than necessary if they’re having a quiet day. In some cases, more serious crimes than swindling are committed by taxi drivers and by passengers too.
Harvard graduate Anthony Tan from Malaysia aims to reduce these risks and concerns with his GrabTaxi app, also known as MyTaxi. The idea started in Kuala Lumpur after a visiting friend complained to him about the state of Malaysia’s taxi system, and spread to other countries in Asia. It is currently available in more than 40 cities. It seems like an idea that could spread even further quite quickly.
The app connects driver and passenger through their smart phones. GrabTaxi can then process complaints or deal with mishaps such as a bag or camera left in the taxi. Passengers can rate and ‘like’ drivers at the end of journeys, meaning the more scrupulous and commendable taxi drivers will be rewarded with more business.
Of course, the naughty taxi drivers, especially ones not connected to big taxi companies, aren’t likely to sign up for such a system in the first place. But the hope is that by giving people easier access to good taxi drivers, the bad drivers will be marginalised. ‘Clear carrot, clear stick,’ as Anthony Tan puts it.
The app can also help with tracking the location of a taxi, tell somebody when the customer arrived, and is useful in helping to book taxis, another thing that can be frustrating. Once the taxi arrives, the customer will already know the name of the driver who is collecting them.
Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube, is involved in the project, which already has good funding behind it and which may soon expand to become popular outside of its Asian base.
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