Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New York's Yellow Cabs Have A New Weapon In Their War Against Uber: Gadgets

Riding in a yellow taxi used to be a miserable experience, which helps explain why Uber and Lyft were able to swoop in and so thoroughly disrupt the industry. Fed up with unreliable and dirty taxi rides, passengers migrated en masse to ride-hail apps that promised cleaner rides, friendlier drivers, and seamless payments. Taxi operators tried to stave off the bleeding by rolling out their own apps — but most were just pale copies of Uber. Now, the traditional taxi industry is launching a new counter-offensive against the ride-hail menace: gadgets. 

Starting this year and ramping up in 2017, Verifone Systems — one of the largest payment processing companies in the world — will install new technology in tens of thousands of cabs nationwide, in a massive effort to improve the cab-riding experience for not only riders, but drivers as well. Verifone owns taxi meters, credit card machines, and entertainment systems in dozens of markets in the US, including New York City, where it controls around half of the city’s fleet of yellow and green cabs.


The experience of riding in a yellow taxi is about to get high-tech. Gone are the bulky touchscreen TVs blaring clips from Good Morning America and the analog meters with their retro-red numerical displays. (Regulators in New York City announced last year its plan to phase out the annoying Taxi TVs.) By next year, many of TVs will be replaced with sleek, 10-inch touchscreen tablets with third-party app support. That means riders will soon have the option of streaming Spotify or booking a reservation with Open Table during their cab rides. 

There will be a USB charger, because we live in an era when our smartphones always need charging, and Wi-Fi, because data plans are expensive. Credit card readers will also accept mobile payment options like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. (Four years ago, Verifone tried its hand at mobile payments with its Square-like Sail card reader, only to pull out of the market months later.)

And there will be new toys for the drivers, too. Verifone will be installing 7-inch tablets on the dash that will serve as an all-in-one meter, dispatch, and navigation device. It will use GPS to communicate with satellites to calculate the most accurate fare, but will also include back up software for those times the cab is out of range (i.e., tunnels). The company will install biometric readers next to the ignition for drivers to scan their thumb prints at the start of their shifts. And security cameras and panic buttons will help improve security for both drivers and passengers. 

Verifone is calling the new front-of-the-cab experience “Dash” and the back-of-the-cab gadgets “Ryde” — because everything needs a hip, weirdly spelled moniker these days. Dash is currently being tested in Verifone’s cabs in Chicago, Boston, and New Orleans, while Ryde is only being rolled out in New York City for now.

“I like to say that we provide what Uber says it provides,” said Jason Gross, global head of product and marketing at Verifone. “We are a technology platform for the owners and operators of taxis to be connected with passengers who want transportation.” 

Gross declined to comment on the total cost for all these new gadgets, but Verifone is a public company that does around $2 billion in annual revenue, so he said the expenditure “would probably be considered non-material.” 

Verifone will be rolling out these new gadgets at the same time as competition for space inside most yellow cabs is heating up. Flywheel, an e-hail app based in San Francisco, recently launched its smartphone-based meter-and-dispatch solution in New York City. Flywheel hailed the achievement as the first time a new provider has been allowed to install its technology inside a New York City taxi in 12 years, while crowing about breaking up the “duopoly” of Verifone and its main competitor, Creative Mobile Technologies.

Yellow taxis are placing huge bets on e-hail apps like Flywheel to help lift their fortunes against Uber and Lyft. Verifone has two apps, Curb and Way2Ride, while CMT operates one called Arro. But the success of these apps compared to their better known, more widely used rivals is hard to quantify. (Uber and Lyft use for-hire vehicles like black cars rather than taxis.)

Moreover, yellow taxis across the country are still reeling from the disruption of Uber and Lyft. The value of medallions in New York City have fallen sharply, while fleet owners from coast-to-coast are filing Chapter 11. But Gross sees a silver lining amid all this app-inspired chaos. 

“I think the regulatory pendulum is swinging back,” he said. “They’re loosening up some on taxis and they’re cracking down some on the [transportation network companies].”

Waiting for regulators to crack down on Uber is not a real strategy to save the industry. Uber and Lyft have raised expectations among riders, and the yellow taxi industry will need to rise to the challenge if they’re going to survive. 

“When you think about the technology before, it was never part of the business to design the user experience,” Gross said. “It was a box with a bunch of buttons on it. This gives us an opportunity to make it beautiful

Monday, September 26, 2016

One Set Of Regulations For Us....And No Regulations For A Chosen Few.

Just when you thought you'd seen it all before...
Just when you thought they couldn't get any more biased...

A driver complains to TfL that a car, shown on the TfL licence checker page as a PHV, is working with no roundels. 

Unbelievably, TfLTPH replied, they had given this vehicle special dispensation to work without roundels. 

Lee Ward Comments On The Deregulation By Stealth Article.

How many more times are we going to see reports like this that show exactly how the old laws and the Deregulation Act are flawed in this new age ?

To not have a knowledge test because we have the use of Sat Nav's is plain stupid, would they let me go and repair their central heating boiler because I have the information on YouTube ? 
Like hell they would... 
So why allow a driver to drive them or their family around while concentrating on a Sat Nav instead of on the road ?

I believe that a steering committee should be made to attack this issues "Nation Wide" and get the MP's to sit up and listen to this trade, the usual Unions only dilute the issue while attempting to get the kudos for what they try to achieve.

Editorial Comment. 
There are many trade unions in the UK. What do they do when face with problems that could wipe them out....they go to the TUC - The Trade Union Congress.

It time we had a National Trade Congress.

Deregulation by stealth : Nearly half of Derby's private hire drivers are registered elsewhere

How far has your private hire driver gone to get their licence?

Shocking statistics reveal almost half of the 2,800 private hire taxi drivers operating in Derby have not been cleared to work by Derby City Council.

Figures obtained from other authorities show more than 1,300 cabbies have gained licences elsewhere, meaning they have not passed Derby City Council's knowledge test. The council is powerless to check drivers or vehicles in the area if they have qualified with other authorities.

The Derby Telegraph revealed last week that 254 licensed drivers had travelled as far as Rossendale in Lancashire, which has no such test, to gain their qualification but further investigation showed this was just part of the problem.

Gedling Borough Council, in Nottinghamshire, showed a total of 765 drivers with a Derby home address had obtained licences from the authority.

About 1,500 private hire drivers in the city have taken and passed the Derby test.

Derby councillor Baggy Shanker, who responsible for taxi licensing in Derby, said this was "worrying". He said: "It gives us a lack of control to assess these guys who are licensed elsewhere. We can't, by law, stop and inspect them. We simply do not know who is getting a licence to work in Derby."

A loophole in the law allows drivers with a hackney carriage licence, who can pick up fares on the street, to operate as private hire drivers anywhere in the country. Private hire drivers are only permitted to pick up passenger who have made a prior booking.

Drivers have registered as far away as Rossendale in Lancashire.

The Derby Telegraph asked a number of councils how many licences they had handed out since the start of 2013 to drivers from Derby.

Gedling said a total of 765 had been issued since 2013 - 154 were handed out in 2013, 323 in 2014, 171 in 2015 and 117 so far in 2016.

A Gedling council spokesman said: "In May 2014, the council introduced the knowledge test as part of the fit and proper test, with the aim of improving and driving up the standards of the drivers driving Gedling licensed vehicles. There is anecdotal evidence that suggests the introduction of the knowledge test may have reduced the number of hackney carriage licences issued to people outside the Nottingham area."

The spokesman said the Gedling knowledge quiz included 25 questions on directions and local landmarks, five on conditions of licences and legislation, five on mental arithmetic and five based on knowledge of the Highway Code. Applicants must answer 75% of the questions correctly to pass.

Erewash Borough Council revealed it had issued 299 licences to Derby drivers in that time – 68 of those in 2013, 72 in 2014, 86 in 2015 and 73 so far this year. A spokeswoman for the authority said: "Local knowledge was removed from the knowledge test in 2007/08 when it was considered an unnecessary requirement with the increased use of sat navs. However, with the increase in inquiries from persons living outside the borough and those having plans not to work in Erewash, the council reintroduced local knowledge and also disability and safeguarding elements to the existing knowledge test in June 2016."

Erewash said its knowledge test addressed hackney carriage and private hire vehicle laws, disability and safeguarding issues, area knowledge and the Highway Code.

Mark Keenan, of Western Cars, which only uses drivers with Derby City Council badges.

East Staffordshire Borough Council said it currently had five people licensed with a Derby address and Derbyshire Dales District Council said it had four.

Mr Shanker said the law needed to be changed nationally to put a stop to the problem. He said: "If you are a Derby driver and a Derby resident then you should qualify in Derby. I think you should be licensed by the local authority in the area you are working in, it's as simple as that."

Mark Keenan, managing director of Derby-based taxi firm Western Cars, said the numbers were "remarkable". He said: "It makes me wonder why these drivers are going there, what have they got to hide? Is there something in their personal or driving records that would prevent them from passing in Derby or can they not pass the Derby test?"

Mr Keenan said his policy was to only hire drivers with Derby City Council badges.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

#SaveTaxi's wheelchair fundraiser for Canonbury cycle crash victim who is forced to crawl.

Black cabbies are raising money to buy an electric wheelchair for a disabled customer who currently has to “crawl” to and from their taxis.

Alex Doodle, 44, has been on the lengthy waiting list for three months. The architecture graduate, has relied on black cabs to get around since losing the ability to walk in a cycling collision in Essex Road seven years ago.

But the costs, coupled with the mental healthcare bill, means he has had to survive on full fat milk since November.

And after sharing his story with driver Terry Vaus, who watched them “crawl” from his cab last month, the cabbie called on the close-knit community to raise £3,000 for a chair.

“I feel like a prisoner in my own home,” Alex told the Gazette. “To have the freedom to go out when I want would be life-changing.”

To make matters worse, Alex lives in a first floor flat in Englefield Road, Canonbury, because wheelchair-accessible homes are so scarce (making up just 28 of the 2,000 council properties let in the last two years).

The council has helped Alex get crutches and undergo physiotherapy to use them, but he still has to stumble up and down the stairs, causing up to 15 falls a week. “My neighbour has found me unconscious a number of times,” Alex added.

“I spend most of my money on taxis and mental health services, so I haven’t been able to eat properly since November, but some of these wonderful Taxi drivers have been bringing me baby food. I get full from just half a jar – I’ve also been living off full fat milk.”

Terry said: “I’ve picked up Alex a couple of times and we got chatting about his life.

“When I dropped him off I offered to help, but he really didn’t want me to. I watched him crawling along the wall. He's been pushed from pillar to post. So I posted about him on our Save Our Black Taxis Facebook group and it just went from there.”

Islington’s health boss Cllr Janet Burgess said she was sorry to hear of Alex’s situation and was doing what she could to help, including offering in-home adaptations and mental healthcare.

She said: “I would urge Alex to engage with our services so we can ensure he has all the support he needs.

“While we are building new homes for disabled tenants, demand for properties vastly outweighs supply.”

Donate to Alex’s appeal > Click Here. <

Comment From # SaveTaxi 's Shelly Hartnett

It is a great honour to have been asked to help support a very special #SaveTaxi member and trade supporter! 

Together, let's get him the wheelchair he so desperately needs and with it, a new lease of life.

Thank you to everybody that has already shown support.

Please donate whatever you can and share share share.

Thank you! 

Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th September 2016.

Jo StevensShadow Minister (Justice), Shadow Solicitor General 12:00 am, 15th September 2016 
What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of existing legislation for the taxi and private hire vehicle industries. 

Louise Haigh Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)
What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the provisions of the Deregulation Act 2015 relating to taxi licensing on the ability of licensing authorities to regulate taxi trade. 

Andrew JonesParliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
Local councils have the powers to provide effective licensing arrangements in their area, but legislation is in the House to strengthen the current framework. We will consult on new statutory guidance for local licensing authorities once the parliamentary process is complete.

Jo StevensShadow Minister (Justice), Shadow Solicitor General
I thank the Minister for his reply. Internet and smartphone use has revolutionised private hirevehicle services. Does he believe that current legislation, which is now several decades old, is adequately regulating this technology?

Andrew JonesParliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
The legislation that governs this sector goes back many, many more decades, to the age of the horse and carriage. That is why the Government asked the Law Commission to take a comprehensive review of taxi and private hireregulation in England and Wales. Obviously, it is a devolved matter in Scotland and Northern Ireland. We will be responding to the Law Commission’s report in due course.

Louise Haigh Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)
Sheffield City Council believes that its tough policy on child sexual exploitation is basically useless because other taxi operators can license themselves outside Sheffield and then operate in Sheffield. Will the Minister meet me and other colleagues from Sheffield city region to discuss taxi licensing in relation to CSE?

Andrew JonesParliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
I will be happy to meet the hon. Lady. I just point out that whatever licensing area a company is operating in, it has to ensure that a fit and proper person test is carried out, but I will be very happy to meet her.

Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport)
May I also welcome the Secretary of State. He knows my city of Cambridge very well. We look forward to him coming to open the new railway station, which is long overdue. He also knows that Cambridge is full of people who think that prisoners should read books and that Britain should be in the European Union. I suggest that he brings a very hard hat with him when he comes.

We heard in an Adjournment debate raised by my hon. Friend Andrew Gwynne about the problems in the taxi trade and the procrastination and inaction over two years since the Law Commissionreport. Some months ago, the Minister told us that he was about to act, and yet in a written question to me a few days ago, he said that the Government have no plans to bring forward legislation in the current Session. How much longer will we have to wait?

Andrew JonesParliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
That is a complex matter and we are working on it and through it, but we are already taking action on the key issue of child sexual exploitation in the taxi and private car sector by putting the guidance onto a statutory basis. We hope to be consulting on that as soon as the Policing and Crime Bill has reached Royal Assent.

Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport)
What a striking contrast with the new Mayor of London, who has done more in a few weeks than his predecessor did in eight years, and more than that lot have done in six years. Does the Ministerrecognise the problem with cross-border licensing? As we have heard, there are councils in this country handing out licences like confetti. These vehicles are clogging up the streets of London and adding to congestion. How much longer will we have to wait until he takes the problem seriously?

Andrew JonesParliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
The Government are clearly taking the issue seriously. I am aware of the actions taken by the new Mayor of London, but it is worth making sure that one gets those actions right; I understand that one of the operators has already won the right to a judicial review.

John BercowSpeaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority
Order. We started late because of the preliminary announcements, so we can run on slightly, but we must have much shorter questions from now on. To be honest, questions today have been simply far too long.