Fighting rape and rip-offs

TaxiGuard, designed to help prevent sexual assault, could be applied to long-hauling

Richard N. Velotta

Richard N. Velotta

An Australian technology company is weighing in on Las Vegas’ taxicab long-hauling problem, and cab drivers aren’t going to be happy about the implications brought to the table by its product, TaxiGuard.

Peter Gosney, of Trigger Technologies, says the primary focus of TaxiGuard is to prevent sexual assault by taxi drivers. But the application also can be used to help curb long-hauling.

Gosney reached out to me after reading my VEGAS INC stories about the city’s long-hauling problem and Frias Transportation Infrastructure’s efforts to persuade regulators to adopt its real-time cab monitoring system, RideIntegrity.

Gosney said there are about 333,000 — mostly male — taxi drivers and chauffeurs in the United States who work more than 700 million hours a year.

“Like it or not, a group this large will include many sexual deviants, especially because many of them will see driving random strangers around in a car alone at night as an opportunity to misbehave, particularly if those strangers are regularly intoxicated,” Gosney said. “If you set up a Google Alert designed to trigger on news articles with both ‘taxi’ and ‘rape’ mentioned in them, you will find that two to three incidents are reported in North America every week.”

Gosney said he believes the vast majority of cab drivers are honest.

I’m sure most drivers will believe that marketing a personal safety product as a means to curb long-hauling crosses a line.

The biggest difference between Trigger’s TaxiGuard and Frias’ RideIntegrity is who controls the technology.

With RideIntegrity, regulators keep watch over taxis equipped with GPS tracking devices. Drivers who use a long route can be identified for follow-up, while drivers who frequently use long routes can be monitored.

With TaxiGuard, the technology is in the customers’ hands.

Riders can buy credits through Apple’s app store — the system is set up only for iPhones — with an initial five costing $1.19. Subsequent credits cost up to 50 cents apiece. The setup includes entering an emergency telephone number of a friend or loved one.

When a person gets into a cab, he or she enters a destination, and the app calculates the length of time the trip should take. There are buttons to add time for heavy traffic and to add notes or photos — the picture and name of a cab driver or cab number, for example. There’s also a button to push when the destination is reached safely.

A panic button can be pressed if anything goes wrong during the trip. If that button is pushed, or if the end trip button isn’t pressed, the emergency contact is notified. GPS tracking preserves a record of the route.

The way TaxiGuard works, it can easily be used to prevent long-hauling.

Gosney and his team have spent a couple of years polishing the system to get it right. Now, they hope to find a local partner to sponsor it and make it available to all riders.

Tags: Opinion, Business