Ready to Strike

By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 2007-08-24 Print this article Print

"TLCs GPS in taxis will NOT be able to navigate/give directions. A monitor with a control switch will be installed in the back seats, playing ads for the customer. If the passenger vandalizes the monitor, you will get the ticket. If the GPS breaks down, your meter will be shut OFF." But TWA spokesman Allan Fromberg said that the GPS technology is there to facilitate an electronic trip sheet—something that drivers already do before they begin a fare—and to help passengers find lost items.
"Right now the first thing a taxi driver does is write something on a clip board. That information will now be electronically transferred [to the system]," said Fromberg, in New York. "GPS is used to facilitate an electronic trip sheet and to facilitate the return of lost property without the [passengers knowledge] of a medallion number. Of our 88,000 passengers [that lost something last year] the majority dont know what cab they were in. With the vehicle location system well be able to triangulate—take a snap shot in time—of several cars in the vicinity of a drop off," to narrow down which car the passenger was riding in when the item was lost.
At the same time, said Fromberg, the instant message portion of the system will be used to transmit information to drivers that they can use—things like a big party or convention letting out where people are likely looking for cab rides, or instructions in the event of an emergency. The passenger information screen—the one on the back seat of the taxis—will stream a "plethora of content" to passengers, according to Fromberg. "First and foremost it takes place of all the stickers on back of the partition," he said. "The map will be electronic and interactive, facilitated by GPS, so you can see where you are and where youve been, where youre going [while watching] news, sports, entertainment, you name it." In response to NYTWAs complaints, TLC has put together a fact sheet for media that spells out the myths versus facts surrounding the mandated technology system. Situated near the top of the list is the "myth" that TLC invades privacy with GPS. The fact, according to TLC, is that TLC only collects the same data it has collected for decades via the paper trip sheets: pick-up, drop-off, number of passengers, and fare. Drivers are required to keep this information for three years and are mandated to keep it accessible to the TLC at all times, according to TLC, who said that "electronic trip sheets will remove many of the burdens of doing so from drivers and owners." Read one writers opinion about what its like riding in a taxi with a constant real-time display of video and information. The electronic trip sheets will be used to analyze and assess the needs of the industry. The contracts with each of the technology vendors prohibit the vendors from sharing information on the off-duty location of a taxicab with the TLC. At the same time, according to TLC, the automated data collection will eliminate the TLC summonses for missing or improper paper trip sheets. Since 2004, drivers have been summonsed over 45,000 times for missing or incorrect sheets. NYTWAs Linauer believes the technology system mandated by TLC may go the way of the Talking Taxi, another TLC mandate that had celebrity recordings reminders passengers to buckle up when they entered a cab, and to look around for lost items before they left a cab. "They were removed by public demand," said Linauer, as was another electronic monitor that interrupted passenger cell phone calls. The NYTWA is currently in negotiations with New York City Mayor Michael Bloombergs office to avert the strike, according to Linauer. But he doesnt see the issue going away unless GPS is also done away with. "Certainly we have to be ready for [the strike]," said Linauer. "You dont want to inconvenience the public or have the drivers lose money, but Ive never seen drivers so enraged, so determined, as they are now. When we say a two-day strike, a lot of drivers want to strike for a week. These are people that barely eke out a subsistence living but theyre willing to sacrifice; theyre going to lose thousands on this system." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.


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