Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bring back Safe Two-Way Radio Taxicab Dispatch Technology.

In short: Using computers to dispatch taxis is IDIOTIC.

I'm old school taxi. I spent most of my "career" in this business using two-way voice radio.

You could operate your taxi without ever taking your eyes off the road.

There was a time when being a taxi driver, contrary to popular perception, actually involved a lot of skill.

I have been in the business for long enough to remember those days. The relationship between a good dispatcher, and a good driver, could be made to harmonize like good music. Then someone came up with the idea that it would be better to use computers to allocate ride-sharing requests. That was when it all started to turn into shit.

Far from being an enhancement of communication for the purposes of taxicab dispatch, the introduction of mindless computer algorithms to the task of dealing with the innately rough and tumble process of "matching riders with drivers," has been a disaster on many fronts, for both the front-line providers of ride-sharing services, and the customers.

There was a time when the two-way radio could have been regarded as a "disruptive technology" just like Uber's app.

From Wikipedia:

"The first major innovation after the invention of the taximeter occurred in the late 1940s, when two-way radios first appeared in taxicabs. Radios enabled taxicabs and dispatch offices to communicate and serve customers more efficiently than previous methods, such as using callboxes."

I saw through the scam when the the taxi brokerage I was signed with in 2007 decided to migrate to a computerized dispatch system.

It was completely obvious.

1 - the brokerage would no longer have to hire skilled, experienced, knowledgeable dispatchers to verbally allocate ride-sharing requests. Instead, they could recruit lower paid call-takers to simply type addresses into a computer.

It saved money for the brokers.

It did squat for the operators. (Who were forced to pay for the useless hardware and software upgrades.)

2 - whereas, previously, the broker had to rent out parking spaces for its cabs to queue up during slow periods when trip rationing was necessitated, the computer allowed the cabs to sit anywhere. And they did. This resulted in greater aggravation to the public as the cabs started to queue up in no-stopping zones, beside parking meters, hospital ramps, and areas known to be frequented by taxi-using foreign students in my city.

It also increased the probability that any individual cab that was dispatched to a high-frequency pick-up zone would end up being "scooped" by another hungry cab that was already loitering there.

This phenomena lead to the increased probability that an individual driver who was dispatched to a high-frequency zone would simply ignore the call, knowing that the probability he had already been scooped by a loiterer was about 95%. And this led to lower service reliability.

Of course, there was that remaining 5% of the time when the caller had not been scooped up by a loiterer, and ended up having to call a second or third time before they could actually get a driver to respond. Which led to complaints about the "unreliability" of taxi service. (Which was itself exacerbated by the City's insane policy of issuing unnecessary taxi licenses, which led to an increase in the number of vacant taxis, which were thus, increasingly available to scoop other cabs rather than running their own trips. In the "old days" when most cabs were actually engaged, there was a much lower probability that a corner call, or a Tim Horton's, or a gas station customer would be scooped by a vacant taxi. This failure of government taxicab regulation fueled the popularity of app-based dispatch systems where the customer could track the progress of their cab, even if HE ended up not arriving either.)

In other words, computerization of taxicab dispatch did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to increase the efficiency of matching of riders with drivers. In fact, it led to increased confusion and a significant waste of money, time, and gasoline, along with public and customer frustration.

But it did save money for the brokers, who pay neither for the glitchy hardware and software, the wasted time, nor the gasoline wasted by their hapless operators.

Again, it did squat for the operators.

AND EVEN WORSE!

It involved the installation of distractive devices in every taxicab, which led to a higher risk of death and injury on the roads. This is indisputable. ("Three seconds. That's all it takes.")

If the phony politicians and other interest groups, like Uber-partner MADD Canada, REALLY gave a shit about SAFETY they would be calling for a total ban on ALL distractive taxi dispatch technologies and a call for the return to the minimally distractive two-way radio system of taxicab dispatch.

I've been harping on this distractive technology angle for ten years now, even before Uber existed.

I am still waiting for someone to say, "He's right, you know!"

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