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Taxi Dispatch With Radios

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ryan125hst

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From what I understand, many pre-booked taxis and private hire vehicles these days are dispatched using a compter system. The customer will typically use an app on their phone, or can call the taxi office, to book their vehicle. The computer system will then find the nearest available vehicle and send the job to the driver who will see the job appear on a device, typcially a mobile phone. They can then go and pick up the customer, press an "Arrived" button to let the customer know when they have arrived at the location and then take the customer to where they would like to go. The app used on the phone will often also act as a sat nav to help the driver find the pick up point and then the desination.

Before such systems, the customer would call the taxi office who would then tell drivers where to go using a radio. It seems that such set ups are now rare despite many companies being known as Radio Cabs, Radio Cars etc.

Are there still taxi companies out there that use a radio system?
 
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Trackman

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Some still use MDT's (mobile data terminals) that use the airwaves, some don't (so to speak) and use mobile phone networks.
As for voice analogue systems and indeed DMR (digital), there are a few still knocking about, sometimes using a repeater.
 

ryan125hst

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Presumably it's generally smaller companies that still use a radio based system now? There's a few taxi companies in Retford and all of them are fairly small as far as I know. I wonder whether they still use radio or if there's an app based solution that works for smaller companies?

How does radio dispatch actually work? The booking is made by calling the taxi office and presumably entered into computer software. How do the office know where each car is and therefore who is the most suitable driver to send (assuming they have just a radio and no GPS technology)? What about advance bookings? Would drivers be told that you have a booking at location X at this time in advance or would the computer system flag this up shortly before the pickup time to remind them to send a car to the location?

Is DMR just a digital voice system with no other functionaity?

I didn't realise that MDT's that use the airwaves exist. I guess these come from the days before mobile internet was as commonplace and reliable as it is today?
 

Bletchleyite

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It was fairly crude - office gets a job and radios it out, driver radios back if they are willing to take it.

It must cost considerably more to operate than systems based on the driver's own mobile phone, which only costs the software licence costs.
 

dgl

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It was fairly crude - office gets a job and radios it out, driver radios back if they are willing to take it.

It must cost considerably more to operate than systems based on the driver's own mobile phone, which only costs the software licence costs.
Doubt it's actually that different in costs esp. if no repeater is being used.

As for how it all worked, the dispatcher would know what jobs the drivers were on and would be able to guess who was where and who should be ready to pick up another job in a given area.
 

Swanny200

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From someone who has worked from both sides as a dispatcher and a driver, I can tell you that there are still some solely radio car companies out there, the ones that I know will call "car x cleared x" to give the dispatcher an idea of which area they are in and then get told by a dispatcher whether to head back or stay put, the dispatcher will have written down, any jobs that drivers have pre allocated and most of these dispatchers don't do well when handed a computer and an app, these dispatchers have been at it for years and can run the office on their own better than any computer system can, on advantage of it is that drivers know that they have to call in when they pick up a flagged down hire and usually will tell the dispatcher where they are dropping off so giving the dispatcher an idea in their heads for follow on work. In terms of the computer based systems, there are cloud based ones and in the early days, you needed radio so that if the cloud system failed, or the boss had missed his monthly payment, you have a back up.

The bigger systems like Autocab, Auriga etc.. used to have hardwired dataheads, but again, you had the radio for backup as some of the older dataheads failed repeatedly (one car I know had 3 dataheads break on a Saturday afternoon, including one break in front of me with them not doing anything to it), even with a datahead, the systems would always have a REQ function where the driver would push it to get the dispatcher to call them over the radio, of course one major reason for the radio's not being redundant would be for the EMG function, at least if it was hit by accident, it would be rectified much quicker, one system that I had the pleasure of working with, when you pushed the emergency button, it asked you in big letters for your assailant to see that you had pushed said button and wanted you to push it again to confirm, not a good thing when you have someone trying to assault you, was part of a running joke in my office that as you were being assaulted you had to ask the guy hitting you to stop so you could push the button again to confirm you were being assaulted, the datahead systems were good too that as soon as you put on the meter, if you picked up off the street, it would automatically put you (P)assenger (On) (B)oard. The cloud apps were different, they would either require you to push a button on the app which is easily forgotten, or would automatically put you POB if you drove away from the address which is great if said address was plotted in the correct position in the software, if it wasn't plotted correctly you had a chance of getting a noshow as the same function also sent the text to the customer saying that you were outside, all these mistakes have to be watched by a dispatcher who could be dealing with phones and other issues.

One of the worst systems I used as dispatch and a driver was using mobile phones preloaded with said system, all is fine and dandy until most evenings when the signal would either drop as the system would only work on one network, losing you both way of comms and also jobs, or worst of all, go down completely on a Saturday night so nobody had any communication at all apart from the trusty radio with no tech services available, would show on another occasion a driver in the middle of the Caspian Sea while another was in Washington D.C when we were in Scotland.

The advantage of the older Datahead systems like autocab was though, that if you took care of the equipment, you could still use it 20 years later and if you didn't want all the latest features, not pay a penny, and you could still use the radio for booking return jobs via the driver etc... You had the best of both worlds.
 
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ryan125hst

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Thanks for the detailed response Swanny200. The radio systems must be common for small companies still in that case, but I'd imagine the advantages of a computerised system (call back, seeing where the cars are etc) must mean they are reducing in numbers.

of course one major reason for the radio's not being redundant would be for the EMG function, at least if it was hit by accident, it would be rectified much quicker, one system that I had the pleasure of working with, when you pushed the emergency button, it asked you in big letters for your assailant to see that you had pushed said button and wanted you to push it again to confirm, not a good thing when you have someone trying to assault you, was part of a running joke in my office that as you were being assaulted you had to ask the guy hitting you to stop so you could push the button again to confirm you were being assaulted
That was well thought then! I get the need to prevent accidental pressing of the button but having an "Are you sure" in that situation puts the driver at risk.

the datahead systems were good too that as soon as you put on the meter, if you picked up off the street, it would automatically put you (P)assenger (On) (B)oard. The cloud apps were different, they would either require you to push a button on the app which is easily forgotten, or would automatically put you POB if you drove away from the address which is great if said address was plotted in the correct position in the software, if it wasn't plotted correctly you had a chance of getting a noshow as the same function also sent the text to the customer saying that you were outside, all these mistakes have to be watched by a dispatcher who could be dealing with phones and other issues.
How do the apps with with hackey carriages and being hailed on the street as from what I've seen some apps give mandatory jobs. What would happen if someone hailed the taxi at the same time a job came through from the app?

One of the worst systems I used as dispatch and a driver was using mobile phones preloaded with said system, all is fine and dandy until most evenings when the signal would either drop as the system would only work on one network, losing you both way of comms and also jobs, or worst of all, go down completely on a Saturday night so nobody had any communication at all apart from the trusty radio with no tech services available, would show on another occasion a driver in the middle of the Caspian Sea while another was in Washington D.C when we were in Scotland.
I can imagine the app based systems that rely on 3G/4G coverage can be problematic in more rural areas with poor mobile signal. That being said, while radios would work better in those cases, the mobile network based systems will allow a greater area to be covered without needing base stations everywhere. Swings and roundabouts I guess.

The advantage of the older Datahead systems like autocab was though, that if you took care of the equipment, you could still use it 20 years later and if you didn't want all the latest features, not pay a penny, and you could still use the radio for booking return jobs via the driver etc... You had the best of both worlds.
The apps are surely better in terms of automation, call back features, customers being able to see where the driver is though. Plus I'd imagine the dataheads are quite expensive and soon go out of date from a technical point of view whereas with mobiles it's just an app update to add new features?
 

Swanny200

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Thanks for the detailed response Swanny200. The radio systems must be common for small companies still in that case, but I'd imagine the advantages of a computerised system (call back, seeing where the cars are etc) must mean they are reducing in numbers.


That was well thought then! I get the need to prevent accidental pressing of the button but having an "Are you sure" in that situation puts the driver at risk.


How do the apps with with hackey carriages and being hailed on the street as from what I've seen some apps give mandatory jobs. What would happen if someone hailed the taxi at the same time a job came through from the app?


I can imagine the app based systems that rely on 3G/4G coverage can be problematic in more rural areas with poor mobile signal. That being said, while radios would work better in those cases, the mobile network based systems will allow a greater area to be covered without needing base stations everywhere. Swings and roundabouts I guess.


The apps are surely better in terms of automation, call back features, customers being able to see where the driver is though. Plus I'd imagine the dataheads are quite expensive and soon go out of date from a technical point of view whereas with mobiles it's just an app update to add new features?
The issue of the please press again to confirm emergency wasn't well thought out and we did approach the company in regards to this, however we changed system soon after for another reason and as far as we were aware another company in the area still had to push twice to confirm.

The question in regards to jobs coming through as a driver is being hailed, we had issues with drivers being on the rank and rejecting system jobs while being approached by someone to just ask a question, we adapted the system that if the system sent a job automatically to their pad as we called it, they had the chance to accept or reject in a 20 second timeframe, however if their meter went on (because they picked up a flagged down or rank hire) it would automatically bounce back, however the problem with it was if you pre allocated it to a driver (for instance the driver had booked a pre allocated hire for say 12:30 to pick up a flight and it was delayed, so they stayed on the rank for a while longer) it would not clear on your dispatch screen and it was really hard to allocate it to someone else, school runs cause major issues in this situation if a driver was ill.

The apps were created for automation, but as I said before, if you are being picked up from position x, but the creators of the software (who some prevented you putting in your own corrections or plot points) had position x at the other end of the street where your vehicle is yet to drive past, there would be no call back and with it being automated to make the dispatchers job easier too, it was supposed to stop us having to ring the customer to tell them a car was outside, Autocab was great for doing callbacks off the datahead, just by the push of a button, the apps just wanted the driver to drive and not push anything but accept job. As it turned out with the app in these situations, 9 times out of 10, we would get a call from the customer to say, my car didn't arrive, we would tell them that it sat outside for 5 minutes then drove off and they would call us a liar, driver would get sent back out, we would have to manually call back and if it was the same driver, they would get ear ache for the entire journey, he would have more fuel used, lost more earnings and 1 car down to do a job again.

In terms of dataheads, as I said before, if you look after them and I use the old Autocab system as an example, you could be using 20 year old dataheads, a 20 year old Autocab dispatch system that you can edit and have control of, a telephonist to take the hires and a dispatcher to do manual callbacks if needed and dispatch the cars, and it so I was told cost next to nothing, I worked for an company that had used autocab from it's infancy, and as long as you know all the keyboard shortcuts, it is a breeze to use.

Edit, a D21 datahead for autocab is around £12 now, the later Sigma ones are £10, the graphics are basic and are never going to win awards, but I always found, the more features you had at the dispatch end, the more problems you had. If you want to see how the old autocab looked and worked video here

old autocab system
 
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