Telematics to monitor minibus taxi driver behaviour
Developmental finance company SA Taxi is now using telematics and data intelligence to improve taxi safety and reliability on the roads.
The company says it is creating, piloting and implementing various transformational technology solutions, including real-time monitoring, on-board diagnostics, and alerts regarding driver behaviour and vehicle safety.
The latest initiative by SA Taxi comes on the back of latest research, Public Perceptions of Taxi Use, Safety and Crime, by the South African Institute of Race Relations, which says South African minibus taxis are not safe, are often overloaded and their drivers are not trustworthy.
This, says SA Taxi, will soon be a thing of the past.
Stuart Wilson, head of data at SA Taxi, says: “Digital platforms and other innovative technologies are revolutionising every sphere within the global transport sector.
“While the local minibus taxi industry is often viewed as low-tech and resistant to change, certain advanced technologies already pervade the sector.”
He explains that SA Taxi, a vertically-integrated company providing developmental finance to the local taxi industry, has for over 10 years been collecting data from the more than 30 000 vehicles it finances, insures and maintains.
“Every second our bespoke system collects and adds data features from the vehicles that currently operate on our roads to our existing 22 billion telematics-based data points from the devices installed in the vehicles that currently operate on our roads.”
Wilson adds these devices record trip information, including GPS tracking data, trip duration, distance covered, idle time and average speed.
“A hosted analytics and business intelligence platform then analyses the data and generates relevant insights about driver behaviour based on metrics such as operating times, average speed, acceleration, braking events, bases, binding spots and trips.
“We already leverage this data in our insurance and financing businesses, and are busy with numerous other innovative technology projects, which are set to revolutionise the local taxi industry by increasing vehicle reliability and operational efficiency and, most importantly, improving safety for drivers, passengers and other road users.”
As an example, he explains that should the system detect taxis are operating for excessively long hours, “SA Taxi will soon have the ability to send drivers reminders and alerts when it is time to stop and rest, or indicate when would be the ideal time to swop drivers on long-haul trips to reduce accident risks”.
“In commercial terms, vehicle telematics will soon identify potential mechanical issues before they arise. By monitoring a vehicle’s mechanical health and its operating conditions in real-time, we will enable taxi owners to engage in proactive maintenance.”
This, he says, helps to reduce downtime due to major breakdowns and mitigates maintenance costs by ensuring acute issues, “like a water pump failure, don't become a major mechanical repair”.
According to Wilson, proactive maintenance is also essential to ensure vehicles operate safely, as telematics can provide an extra layer of data to contextualise what is happening on a mechanical component level.
“This can significantly reduce the risk of major component failures in relation to braking and suspension systems (including tyres, brakes and shocks), and mechanical and electric components such as alternators and batteries, among others.
“Furthermore, telematics enable the implementation of usage-based maintenance policies, where a scheduled vehicle service is triggered automatically based on actual and accurate vehicle utilisation data derived from the telematics device, such as time on the road or total mileage travelled.”
Wilson says this ensures vehicles are always in a roadworthy and safe operating condition, as worn or damaged parts can be replaced or repaired before they present a risk.
Additionally, he explains that beyond proactive maintenance, the telematics data helps to inform better driver behaviour and vehicle usage.
“For instance, by improving trip and operating efficiencies, operators can lower tyre wear, improve fuel efficiency and extend vehicle lifecycles. This extends beyond just the vehicle, as GPS telematics data can track metrics such as route congestion and overtrading, and can highlight high-risk areas or accident hotspots.”
SA Taxi says the key to leveraging this data to change the taxi industry is getting the information to the people on the ground, such as drivers, and the decision-makers like taxi owners and taxi association officials.
Wilson notes: “To complete this feedback loop, we are in the process of developing intuitive, easy-to-use digital dashboards and mobile interfaces that can deliver information, notifications and actionable insights to owners, operators and drivers.
“And by crafting a better user experience, these solutions will hopefully also serve to increase the adoption and usage of this valuable technology, which can empower the taxi operator to run a better business.”
The company is already using SMS alerts for specific actions.
“Business intelligence requires more granular reporting capabilities to derive the greatest benefit. As such, providing access to these dashboards via smartphones or other mobile devices in real-time remains a vital focus, as it will help the industry make better decisions and drive changes within the sector that will benefit the entire value chain, from the commuter to the owner and all road users,” says Wilson.