Abu Dhabi taxis to introduce free Wi-Fi

Dated: 29/05/2016

Ramona Ruiz (Abu Dhabi) - The National Newspaper

Free Wi-Fi could soon be provided in all taxis in the emirate.

The Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars, or TransAD, is in talks with a company to supply its 7,645 Abu Dhabi taxis with access to the internet for passengers.

“We started out with five of our Mercedes Vito Compact vans," said Mohammed Al Qamzi, TransAD’s general manager. “There’s a company that we’re dealing, and our plan is to roll it out on the full fleet soon. We earlier had an issue with a telecom’s pricing but this has been sorted out.

“By the end of this month, the company will come up with a plan on how fast they can roll out the Wi-Fi in all taxis."

Analiza Montezo, 29, who shares a cab with a colleague to work at Bawabat Al Sharq Mall in Baniyas, said Wi-Fi in taxis would be a good idea as many people spend time during their journeys checking messages, emails and social media accounts.

“I can now browse the internet, access my emails, Skype and send messages via WhatsApp," she said.

Free Wi-Fi was introduced in some taxis at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Known as “smart taxis", the Mercedes Vito Compact vans run on green diesel, are equipped with GPS systems, safety features, and have an intercom system for communications between the passenger and driver. TransAD is also in talks to introduce card payments for fares across for all its vehicles. So far, only the 222 black luxury airport vans have the facility.

“The issue with the regular taxis is the customer will have to pay an additional surcharge and we need to get a special approval to waive it," Mr Al Qamzi. “We don’t want to pass it on to the passenger. We have to review to plan carefully and we’ll try to do it as soon as possible."

The Abu Dhabi taxi regulator is talking to some banks to enable passengers to use their credit cards to pay for their journeys.

“It can be done for free by providing ads on the receipt itself, for example," he said. “We can definitely go ahead with this."

Mohammed Yousef, 43, who drives for Cars Taxi for eight years, said it would help if they could accept credit card payments, especially when they do not have change for large denomination bills.

“Passengers are angry when we don’t have enough change," he said.

Abu Dhabi taxis make an average of 6 million trips a month. Of those, about 60,000 trips are booked using the Abu Dhabi Taxi mobile app.

All taxis are now equipped with closed-circuit television cameras to help identify fare dodgers, prevent disputes, and curb aggressive driving among cabbies. The cameras also help in the process of returning lost items.

“When there’s a security camera, we can reduce the risk by about 95 per cent," Mr Al Qamzi said. “If there is a dispute between the passenger and driver, we can check the footage and know what exactly happened inside the taxi."

To reduce waiting time, new taxi ranks will be introduced at some malls and housing developers.

“For example, traffic at Al Wahda Mall is 12,000 trips daily so there are plans to add a second taxi rank," he said.

“There should be one drop-off and one pick up point to ease congestion around the area."

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