Mon, 27 May, 2019

Now, press a button when in distress while riding a cab

Rules, ecosystem unveiled for app-based cab services

Story: The | Goan | 16th March 2019, 03:59 Hrs


>> Every taxi/vehicle will have to be fitted with GPS/GPRS devices
>> A panic button will also have to be provided for the passengers
>> The app must display all relevant details of the taxi driver, fares, etc
>> Existing players will be given a six-month deadline to fall in line

PANAJI: Better late than never. The Goa government has finally unveiled rules, guidelines and a framework to regulate app-based taxi services, including protocols for passenger data and personal security, to encourage an ecosystem which could potentially revolutionize travel in and between Goa's cities and villages.
Commuter safety, which has emerged a gray area in cities across the country where such services are in operation, has been accorded prime importance.
Every taxi/vehicle will have to be fitted with GPS/GPRS devices which will have to be connected 24/7 to the operator's control room as well as the State Transport department's location tracking server. A panic button will also have to be provided which passengers can trigger when in distress.
The gambit of rules, regulations and licencing framework were approved by the State Transport Authority (STA) in mid-January but notified to immediately come into force earlier this week by Transport Director, Nikhil Desai.
Once the State government appoints a date, any taxi operator, radio taxis, rent-a-car operator or app-based aggregators will have to conform to these rules and guidelines which the STA has adopted from those recommended by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Existing players will be given a six-month deadline to fall in line and meet the regulatory requirements, according to the guidelines notified by Desai.
Any individual, firm or incorporated company, can operate a Taxi App System for hailing taxis but will have to ensure a licence is secured under the Motor Vehicles Act from the STA.
Also, the app must display all relevant details of the taxi driver, the fares and technical vehicle fitness particulars which can be clearly visible to the passenger, the rules mandate.
Also, permit, insurance, fitness certificate and PUC must be valid at all times and the taxis must be fitted with a panic button which the passenger can trigger at all times.
Also, three-wheeler auto-rickshaws and two-wheeler taxis (pilots) can also be brought under aggregation by the operator so as to offer customers convenience for last-mile connectivity.
Taxi owners, agents and radio taxi operators have also been given the freedom to tag on to an app-based aggregators, provided they fulfil the norms. Taxis in all categories - AGT (All Goa Tourist), Yellow black taxis and AITP taxis, Yellow Black Motorcycles, Rent a cab, rent a bike - are permitted to team up with the App-based aggregator. Apps must be validated by the Standardization Testing and Quality Certification (STQC) or any other agency authorized by the Union Electronic and Information Technology (MEITY) ministry.
Aggregators must also have for its app 'firewall' for security of personal data of passengers and fare charges fixed by Transport Department must be adhered but dynamic pricing will be permitted to effectively match demand and supply. Under no circumstances, however, the maximum notified tariff can be surpassed. Sharing of seats may be allowed on aggregator based taxis, provided there is "express consent" of passengers.
Cap on duty hours for drivers to ensure that they are not overworked and therefore a risk to road safety, is another provision specified in the safety protocols for these services.
The licencing framework states that permissions will be granted to individuals, partnership firms, Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) or registered companies mandated to provide public transport services.
Among the operational infrastructure listed as mandatory in the famework include adequate parking facilities for vehicles during non-business hours and maintenance of a web portal containing ownership details, registered address, services offered, fare structure and insurance liabilities.
The notification signals the State's third attempt at streamlining taxi services by introducing app-based services after two earlier attempts were either aborted or achieved little success. In 2013-14, the entry of global brand Ola was aborted on the day of the inauguration when local taxi drivers stormed the venue in Panjim. Last year the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) facilitated Goa Miles was launched amid stiff opposition from existing taxi operators and has achieved limited success.
Whether the current attempt of the Transport Department evolves into a success story and satisfies Goa's burdened commuter - tourist, office-goers and locals alike - is a question one will have to wait and watch to find the answer.