NSW govt considers taxi apps body blow

NSW govt considers taxi apps body blow

Summary: Leaked documents from the NSW Government's Transport for NSW department show that it is considering banning the use of mobile phones and electronic devices in taxis, including hands-free usage. There's some worry that the draft policy could wipe out the nascent market for booking taxis via mobile applications.


Leaked documents from the NSW Government's Transport for NSW department show that it is considering banning the use of mobile phones and electronic devices in taxis, including hands-free usage. There's some worry that the draft policy could wipe out the nascent market for booking taxis via mobile applications.

Policy documents were recently circulated amongst industry stakeholders, discussing the use of electronic devices by drivers of public passenger vehicles, including taxis, buses and hire cars. Copies of these documents have been obtained by ZDNet Australia.

Drivers risk losing their licence if they're found to have used any electronic devices while operating a taxi, including those being operated with a hands-free headset or an ear piece, according to the draft policy. In order to use mobile devices, drivers would have to pull over and engage the handbrake.

Parties familiar with the policy explained that it excludes equipment installed by existing taxi-booking networks, such as the terminal mounted on the dashboard, which is used by drivers to accept bookings. Taxi-booking application companies have declined to comment for this article, because the consultation process is ongoing.

However, some have said that taxi-booking applications would not survive if the policy is enacted as legislation. The difference between operating a taxi-booking terminal compared with accepting a booking from a mobile phone or other device secured by a cradle has also been questioned.

"They're banning all these electronic devices in the cab, yet not banning the Taxis Combined terminal ... [the drivers are] allowed to push the buttons and allowed to put payments through without pulling up handbrake and pulling over," one source said.

Transport for NSW said that the draft policy is not intended to have any impact on the "lawful" operation of taxi-booking applications.

"The existing policy was introduced in 2006, and needs to be updated to deal with the emergence of new hand-held technology, like tablets," the department said.

The consultation process follows a turbulent 2011 for the taxi industry, where the taxi networks and incumbent booking operators were rocked by the wild popularity of smartphone applications, such as Ingogo and goCatch, that help passengers to book cabs.

The technology was welcomed by both passengers and drivers, and an inquiry into the Victorian taxi industry nominated apps as a way to boost competition.

However, the NSW Taxi Council, which represents cab owners, accused the booking applications of being unsafe, because anyone could claim to be a taxi driver. The developers argued that their applications are safer than a regular cab ride, because the journey can be tracked via GPS and the mobile phone numbers of both participants are recorded.

Ingogo also validates all drivers before they join the system, while goCatch said it will release similar functionality in the future.

Topics: Apps, Government, Government AU

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  • Not really a surprise. The obvious concern of taxi plate owners is that technology today bypasses the need for centralised, controlled markets of the past. Obviously all these guys, like Uber, GetTaxi, KabBee etc are all staying on the right side of the law, but the principle of reputation + security + mobile + location + overcomes the need for taxi licensing all together. It's a small step, and if you had bought a AU$1,000,000 NSW taxi plate (supply regulated by Government) you'd be anxious too.
    I wrote on it here http://davidcaldwell.posterous.com/taxis-trust-and-the-peer-to-peer-revolution
  • In defence of goCatch and the likes... maybe these apps developers should find a way to integrate within the taxi systems. I believe this is how its done overseas and reduces the distraction to the driver.

    Additionally this way will enable users of the apps to have an additional layer of security provided by the nsw govt framework.
    Azizi Khan
    • Hi fred9999 have not see you for a while. How is your job at Australian Public Affairs Ltd going. This person is employed as a lobbyist and/or employed by NSW Taxi Council. Should advise this so everyone knows and weighs your comments properly. (-10000)
      • Just confirms our suspicions about the Taxi Council.

        Fred, why on earth would ingogo want to interface with an outdated piece of technology from the incumbents?

        The ingogo platform is actually more secure than the old taxi systems, all our passengers are validated by mobile number, all our drivers must supply valid taxi authorities & licences, every trip is logged so there is a record.

        The ingogo platform is faster to use than the MT Data terminal the networks provide, with it's antiquated remote control. It allows the passenger to exactly where their cab is in real time via a live GPS map, securely & privately communicate direct with the driver and cancel requests in real time via the Apps. The networks outdated platform doesn't offer that passenger to driver direct loop.

        Your suggestion is simply another way to attempt to entrench your client. Doesn't surprise me they have to employ a lobbyist to try and save their monopoly!

        Hamish Petrie
        Managing Director & Founder
        ingogo www.ingogo.mobi
        • I find it interesting that every taxi app developer wants their own software being used by the taxi drivers carrying their own iPhones/Android (without being biased of course) and juggling this while driving and also using the taxi company's inhouse system.

          Of course each of these guys will jump at the opportunity to replace the taxi booking system completely - as it may happen eventually. So it would just be one monopoly taking over another monopoly.

          I also have to add thus far I have yet to see any taxi driver in the Sydney area using a cradle for any mobile device and some of them carry more than one. (Exception being Silver Service of course).

          Oh btw, I don't work for Taxi Council or any other government bodies. It seems some tools like apaul just can't accept that other people might opinion that differs from theirs. Welcome to the age of pre-pubescent Internet trolls. Notice how he didn't really contribute anything toward the discussion ? And thanks for the excellent reply Hamish, Cyrus,Umbria, ToranaGuy and PatanJali. Always great to hear differing opinions.
          Azizi Khan
  • ingogo has a positive relationship with both The Minister for Transports Office & staff within the Department of Transport, we'd like to continue working together in a constructive & positive way to improve competition in the industry for the benefit of passengers and taxi drivers. What we won't do is sit back and allow the Taxi Council (which represents vested incumbent interests) to influence policy to further entrench the monopoly which it has appeared has been happening. As such we want to be consulted fully on revisions to this draft policy.

    Ingogo is concerned about passenger & driver safety, we're the ONLY taxi App that:
    * Validates passengers mobile numbers & ensures drivers are fully licensed & authorised.
    * Provides drivers with a free cradle to safely mount their free ingogo mobile phone.
    * Locks the ingogo mobile operating system on the phone down so it can only run our App (it can't makes calls or SMS and distract the driver)
    * Provides a safer form of payment (passengers never have to expose card information in the taxi, the system is PCI compliant)
    * SSL encrypts all communications between passenger and driver Apps to our servers (some other Apps don't encrypt their communications & are exposing user data)

    These items above are not required by law, we've done them because we are concerned about building a system passengers, drivers and the government can trust and is concerned about safety.

    We have no problem with preventing any driver of a motor vehicle talking whilst holding a phone, that's simply dangerous and against the existing laws. But given the ingogo device is faster and simpler to operate that the networks bookings & payments systems, drivers should have full opportunity to access our device in a cradle just like they do the networks booking system and payment terminals. We are safer to use!

    We trust that the Ministers for Transport's office statement that they fully support innovation and competition in the taxi industry and they will work with the NSW Department of Transport to encourage and support healthy competition. We look forward to a revised draft policy that demonstrates this commitment.

    Hamish Petrie
    Managing Director & Founder
    ingogo www.ingogo.mobi
  • I have used the Ingogo app quite a few times now and I must say it is a far superior to the old way of booking a cab. I am able to see the location of the driver that accepts my job and watch him moving closer to my place from wherever he (or she) is. In one case I could see that the cab would arrive on the opposite side of my street and I just crossed the road in time to be picked up without the cab having to do a U turn - that was neat!
  • If a passenger knows their cab is still seven or eight minutes away, then using ingogo allows them to stay indoors, safe from weather, unwanted attentions, whatever, until just before it approaches. There is a quantifiable risk here if you cannot do so. Anyway, since taxi licence pre-authentication, driver safety and passenger verification appears to have been integrated, ingogo seems to tick every box except maximising profit to a cartel. If I'd spent a million on a taxi licence plate, I think I'd expect my government to allow me to use modern systems like this. Cabcharge credit card fees are another rort that should be clamped down on. The state government has been putting an investigative broom through a lot of dusty arrangements like this. Hope we see some progress soon.
  • G'day chaps.

    I used to drive for Dubbo Radio Cabs in regional nsw about 8 years ago and the treatment of their drivers was horrid. they operated like a cartel and used to fine the drivers. the proceeds of which the owners used for a party at the end of the year. No drivers allowed. if you tried to take a booking outside of the system they would get very upset and fine you. in the end myself and another driver took them to the ACCC. in which the ACCC ruled in our favour and the co-op was disbanded and amalgamated into Orange and Bathurst via gps. don't be nieve about this, you are an independent business person with an ABN number. no-one interferes or tells any other business how they can make money in whatever industry they maybe in. as long as it's legal. all that matters is that you get fares, make as much money as you possible can and give the best possible customer service you can. feel free to use DRC as a test case to give weight to your argument. but whatever you do don't leave this in the hands of the government any longer than you have to.

    All the best fella's.
  • The CabCharge ripoff should go, as it is exorbitant, and especially for EFTPOS.

    When I drove a cab for a short time in Melbourne over a decade ago, I thought the technology was neat and a step up from the phone system.

    But it appears that the 'standard' technology has not been moving along (yes, they now have LCDs), but these new forms have obviously enabled passengers to be actively in the loop, which the 'standard' system did not do at all.

    Of course, there are other issues, like accreditation and driver safety, but these should be part of general provisioner regulations, and not tied to a particular system or group. There can be enforced standards, but with allowance for multiple ways things can be done.

    The most important thing is that there will be competition, and as long as it doesn't compromise essential safety and security issues, it should be encouraged.
  • The NSW government makes huge money from the taxi cartel, they will protect their donors.
  • There is no doubt there are vested interests behind this ... there is big money at stake. Already cabcharge is under the spotlight with Alan Fels targeting the 10% surcharge. I must raise the question here.
    If use of a mobile device is destracting on hands free, what about: the following for all drivers as hazards
    1. Operating your car radio whilst you have passengers - dangerous must be legislated against
    2. Talking to your children whilst you are driving - dangerous must be legislated against
    3. Constantly checking the side of the road for speed camera signs instead of driving safely - dangerous should be legislated against.
    4. Private drivers, and not drivers of public passenger vehicles operating their phones on bluetooth or cable - THIS SHOULD ALSO be legislated against - SINCE THEY ALSO HAVE PASSENGERS DO THEY NOT!!!

    This proposed law is discriminatory and prevents so many small business - like hire cars with private bookings and taxis with private customers from providing a much needed and guaranteed service that the taxi companies SIMPLY CANNOT PROVIDE.

    Let us not go back to the days of the CARTELS... instead it is time to really shine the light on the instigators of this outrageous burden on civil liberty in our expanding nanny state.
    If this legislation goes through and they ALSO