A smartphone application called “Taxi OK” developed by two Thai universities promises to curb cheating and other crimes committed by taxi drivers and protect cabbies against assault and robbery.
The GPS-enabled app and a proposal that every cab have an emergency button have been pitched to the government’s Department of Land Transport for implementation in the 93,000 taxis plying the nation’s roads.
King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL) unveiled the phone app at a press conference on Wednesday.
Ekkachai Sumalee, director of the school’s Smart Cities Research Centre within the Engineering
Faculty, said the app was a joint project with Burapha University’s Faculty of Logistics.
He said Taxi OK could be used along with other devices installed in cabs to increase both driver and passenger safety.
There are seven components in the proposed system, he said, involving the taking of photos, identifying locations, summoning the taxi, monitoring driver behaviour, lodging complaints, an emergency alert button, and assessing both the driver and privately run taxi-information centres.
Users would be able to summon a taxi from any affiliated service and lodge complaints with authorities, Ekkachai said.
Once a cab is in use, its movements and other information would be automatically shared with a supervising information centre run by the private sector and the Land Transport Department’s own taxi centre. Location, speed, engine performance, driver identification, meter fare and booking information would all be recorded.
Taxis would also be equipped with a wide-angle camera taking a picture every minute and a button to push in emergencies.
Ekkachai said the government was reviewing a proposal to equip all newly registered taxis with the system while giving owners of existing taxis two or three years to follow suit.
Sumet Ongkittikul, director of Transportation and Logistics Policy at the Thailand Development Research Institute, said the use of new technology to manage and improve taxi-service quality had to be implemented along with strict law enforcement and strict driver screening.
He said there was still a risk in using the “ride-sharing” phone applications that now compete with conventional taxi services. Despite their added convenience and assurance that no destination will be refused, he said, the drivers might not undergo strict screening. Sumet said laws are still required to ensure the safety of ride-share customers.