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More tech coming for Geely TX4 taxi

Fare trade: Geely's TX4 is purpose-built for fare-paying passengers, but drivers will have to pass a series of tests before they can start taking fares.

Driver monitoring and app-based booking systems on the way for Geely TX4 cabs

22 Aug 2014

THE London Taxi Co Australia is introducing revolutionary driver management and customer service technology, which it says will dramatically improve taxi services in Australia as its fleet of Geely TX4 grows over the coming months.

The Chinese-built cabs are due to roll out on Melbourne streets over the next few months with purpose-built features such as seating for five passengers, wheelchair access and fully partitioned driver/passenger areas, but extra high-tech gear is on its way.

Only drivers who have completed a series of training courses will be authorised to lease and operate a TX4 and The London Taxi Co chief executive officer Evan Simeon says the company is developing a system to enforce the rules.

“There is some driver recognition technology coming up and it's going to stop a driver handing the keys to his brother who has the same name and also looks similar to him but isn't trained,” he said.

“You have to pre-qualify before you can get in to one of our cars”.

The company is keeping exact details under wraps for now, but it is likely to be based on existing fingerprint and retina-recognition technology, which could be incorporated into a vehicle interlock device.

Vehicles fitted with the system would prevent unauthorised use and guarantee only drivers who have completed the required courses could operate the fleet.

The compulsory courses would train drivers in a variety of areas including driver fatigue management, advanced driving, etiquette, customer service, vehicle inspections and monitoring and responding to traffic flow.

Mr Simeon likened the training and conduct of a driver to the “pre-flight plan” and training that a pilot has to perform.

Other tests include demonstrating a knowledge of city geography and places, much like 'The Knowledge' that London black-cab drivers must learn before being given the licence to run a Hackney Carriage in the UK's capital.

A knowledge exam already exists in Melbourne, but recent reports by mainstream media have revealed drivers are still allowed to operate even after failing the test in large numbers.

In addition to driver training and management plans, a booking application is also under development, which Mr Simeon says picks up from existing popular online technology and adds a unique element of customer satisfaction.

“I think Uber is wonderful. I really think it has got some great ideas and they're offering a great service to the public, but at the end of the day they are just a software company – they don't have rolling stock,” he said.

“It's very innovative but have they got the hardware to back it up? I think people don't want just a booking service, they also want to be able to get in to a quality vehicle.”

The London Taxi Co is planning to win custom from existing car-sharing applications by offering the same convenience but with higher quality cars and professional drivers.

“Uber's got part of the jigsaw puzzle they just don't have the final piece. They can't monitor or grade their drivers like we will, and they can't grade their vehicles because they don't control them like we do.” he said.

“You need to deliver the rolling-stock because at the end of the day that's all people are traveling in - their experience with the driver and the car – not the app.”

All TX4 cabs will have plenty of technology with interior and exterior security cameras, free on-board WiFi internet, USB phone and laptop chargers as standard, but an exact roll-out for the new driver management systems and application has yet to be announced.

The London Taxi Co is in the process of establishing a national parts and service center, after which it will start leasing its taxis and expects the first operational cabs on the road before Christmas.

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