Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Taxi Peer to Peer Networks

This innovation courtesy of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). When SARS hit Hong Kong in 2003, the economy basically went to bed. There were no visitors, no shoppers, nothing. Taxis in Hong Kong have long had one of the best reputations in the world, in terms of availability, pricing, and service (OK, that last one was a stretch). Like other parts of the world, taxi's in HK depend on dispatch services to get fares (our HK way of saying passengers) during off-hours. With SARS, off-hours essentially became all-hours.

Enter the TPTPN, or Taxi-Peer-To-Peer-Network. Here's how it works. A bunch (usually around 20) taxi drivers band together to form a network. Drivers take turns at being the dispatch operator. Together, they print and hand out namecards bearing their cellphone numbers to customers. Customers call the cellphones and get forwarded to the number of the on-duty dispatch operator. Dispatch operator takes down the particulars (name, pickup location, destination, cell phone number). He then uses CB radio to identify himself and notify his group of the pick-up request. Closest driver picks up fare. In this process they don't have to rely on the standard dispatch service to wait for their calls, which inevitably are much more contested among a much larger audience of listening cabs. Cell phone costs are low enough to make this worthwhile. All you need is a cellphone and 19 other fellow taxi drivers.

Necessity is certainly the mother of invention!

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