Sunday 8 August 2010

Jeepers … GPS for Hong Kong Taxis

Gee Pee Ess See? Tom tom? Mut yeh lei ah?

[Technology touted for taxis. Pic courtesy]

Letter in SCMP
Government should put GPS systems in all Hong Kong taxis
Aug 07, 2010

I have been living in Hong Kong for 11 years and I have found that you are lucky to get a taxi driver who is more than 10 per cent competent in English.

It is amazing how taxi drivers insist on correct Cantonese pronunciation before they will understand your address instructions. Then you have to make the correct pronunciation five times.

This is in contrast to London, where cabbies have to pass a test called "The Knowledge" before being granted a licence.

Through this test they acquire a great deal of information about the capital city and, for example, can find alternative routes if there is a traffic jam at a critical intersection.

On one recent trip here, my taxi driver did not know Shek Tong Tsui and Woo Hop Street until I had repeated the names five times.

When I was visiting Australia, I forgot my way around and got lost three times in one day. I decided to buy a TomTom global positioning system to use in my car.

It speaks to you and gives instructions ahead of each turning so you can reach your destination using the most efficient route.

Generally, middle-aged male taxi drivers are not interested in learning English.

It is a cultural thing and unfortunate given that Hong Kong wants to be seen as an international city. Technology could provide a solution.

The government should make it mandatory for every taxi to have a GPS system installed.

It should be bilingual so that foreign visitors, using a touch screen, can select their destination and the GPS system will give audio instructions to the cabbie in Cantonese.

Passengers would be able to watch the screen to make sure the driver does not go the long way around in order to get a higher fare.

In Australia, every taxi is fitted with a GPS system that allocates new fares to the driver who is closest to where the passenger is phoning from.

This technology reduces costs and fuel consumption and therefore leads to less environmental pollution.

A GPS project should be introduced in Hong Kong using efficient technology. It should include an audit trail for dispute resolution and police tracking of repeat speeding offenders.

It can keep drivers honest, correct the cultural bias against learning English, and lower stress levels for both taxi drivers and passengers.

It would bring us a step closer to being an international city.

Hong Kong could develop and export this technology to major developing economies in Asia such as the mainland.

This city depends on the development of international trade, and visiting business people must be sure they can rely on an efficient taxi system so they can get to their meetings on time.

Ross Smith, Western district

Just out of interest: Are New York cabbies more than 10% competent in English?

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