Being a total gadget freak I do like to have a few things in the Taxi that will make my life easier whilst out working, things like an electronic A-Z, MP3 player, iPhone, PSP for amusing myself while in those long queues on a taxi rank, and of course the most controversial gadget the Sat Nav, (which to be perfectly honest I never use when in Central London).
The one thing that I have found to be invaluable in the Taxi for a number of years is the electronic version of the A-Z, I have had this running in my Taxi since 2000 in various different guises. Originally I had the A-Z software installed on an old iPAQ pocket PC along with Tom Tom, both of these pieces of software were the original versions that had recently come onto the market, i.e. Tom Tom was version 1 for the pocket PC and the A-Z software was the first version out.
I ran the A-Z like this for a couple of years until Dial a Cab installed their new terminals which were windows based and had A-Z software installed with a larger touch screen, this was obviously a welcomed addition to the DAC terminal and when I finally left the circuit in 2002 I really missed the A-Z on the larger screen! So I set about looking for a replacement to install in my Taxi.
The replacement to the DAC unit came in the form a computer in the mini-itx form factor, basically this is a small PC which is almost silent running due to having no fans installed, this would be coupled to an 8” Touch Screen from a company called Lilliput. The set up worked very well and having a PC in the Taxi offered other facilities such as MP3 playback, email facilities, Digital TV and also being able to watch DVDs whilst in the cab, this all made working in the cab a much more pleasant experience.
When I started to rent a few cabs out to other drivers I was changing the cab that I personally drove on a regular basis so I was unable to install the PC in another cab so the mini PC has now been relegated to my Off Road Discovery to use Memory Map on for our trips out.
Back driving the cab and I now miss having my electronic A-Z in the cab with me so I have recently installed and old O2 XDA with the Memory Map version of the A-Z installed which sits in the cab running the A-Z software continually, I did consider purchasing one of the new Cabbies Mate systems but felt the cost to be a little prohibitive considering that I don’t really drive the cab full time anymore.
The other new device that came onto the market that has transformed life as a Taxi driver are the current smart phones, these devices can perform a whole host of functions, the iPhone in particular has so many apps that can be used to make life as a taxi driver easier that you are really spoilt for choice as to which apps you use. There are even a couple of London Taxi apps, one is called London Taxi meter which is invaluable for estimating the metered fare for any given destination, it is even made easier by the fact that the iPhone already knows your current location so you only have to enter the customers destination and press calculate fare.
Other apps that are available include flight trackers for those who work the airport a lot, traffic programs and traffic camera apps, Google search is great for finding those small clubs that the punters expect you to know but are hidden down a back street somewhere.
Twitter is another app that has become widely used by London Taxi drivers and Taxi Drivers all over the World, it is a social media app that allows you to post status updates or Tweets as they are called. In London a Group Tweet facility has been set up where taxi drivers can Tweet information on traffic problems, work information and any other work related info that they see fit. The Tweet is sent to a specified account and the group tweet then sends the tweet back out again so it is viewable by all of the drivers following that account, the account is also obviously locked to prevent any unauthorised access by competitors or others who may wish to sabotage the information that is being passed between drivers.
Gadgets have definitely changed the way in which I drive a cab from when I first started 20 years ago, they have enhanced my working environment and made my life somewhat easier. But every upside always has a downside and in this case it is that punters also carry smartphones with them and they also have Sat Nav apps installed. On numerous occasions I have had a passenger in the back of the cab with a navigation app running on their smart phone trying to check that I am going the right way. This can sometimes be a little infuriating but at times can also be quite amusing, I sometimes ask the passenger whether they would like me to go the way that their navigation program is indicating as I know that the fare will almost certainly be more than had they left me to go the way that I had intended.
There is no doubt that the electronic wizardry that is now available to us at an ever decreasing cost will in the not too distant future change the way in which we drive our cabs, Sat Nav has definitely made those long jobs out of the Metropolis a lot easier as we no longer have to use a paper map and the host of Taxi Booking Apps that are coming out will change the way in which our passengers hail a cab and in how and where we pick our passengers up.