Mumbai's first taxis with SOS button hit the road

Prototype comprises green and red buttons and is set up near passenger’s seat to provide easy access

After receiving a go-ahead from the state transport department, black-and-yellow taxi aggregator Apna Cabs fitted 15 vehicles with the prototype of an SOS system on a pilot-basis yesterday.

A taxi driver working with the Apna Cabs points at the prototype (circled) installed inside his vehicle. Pic/Ajinkya SawantA taxi driver working with the Apna Cabs points at the prototype (circled) installed inside his vehicle. Pic/Ajinkya Sawant

As per the proposed City Taxi Scheme, 2015, installation of the SOS system will be made mandatory for every taxi service provider across Mumbai — black-and-yellow, cool cabs and mobile aggregators like Uber and Ola, among others.

How it works
The prototype comprises two buttons — green and red — and is installed near the passenger’s seat to provide easy access to a passenger in distress. By using the green button, a passenger can test whether the system is functional or not, following which s/he will receive an automated answer.

Pressing the red button will send an SOS message to the service provider’s call centre and the taxi will be tracked via GPS device installed inside the vehicle. Each of the devices cost around R6,000. The devices have been installed as per the rider placed by the transport department under the proposed taxi scheme.

“We are trying to link it [SOS message] with the police helpline number [100] so that even the cops can be alerted simultaneously,” said Srikanth Lingidi, CEO, Dhanush Travelomedia that is operating Apna Cabs.

Transport officials said the scheme is likely to be approved by June, following which every taxi service provider in the city will have to install the SOS system. Sources claimed it would be an uphill task to ensure that people don’t misuse the system. To ensure that the system is not misused, officials are contemplating imposing fines on miscreants.

Commenting on the issue, Transport Commissioner Shyam Wardhane said, “We are trying our best to expedite the approvals from the government for installing this SOS system. It is the need of the hour.”

About Apna Cabs
Apna Cabs is the only government-licenced aggregator that charges government-approved fares. The aggregator is probably the only black-and-yellow taxi operator, which has the permission to operate services via call centre and a mobile app. It sought permission from the government under the Call Taxi Scheme, 2010, for which it received the letter of intent in November 2015. At present, the firm operates a fleet of 1,700 vehicles.

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