Texting (SMS) for a Shared Taxi: Demand Responsive Transit Brokerage
13 July 2005
A seed-stage company in the UK has developed a system that collates requests for point-to-point travel from a dispersed set of travellers via SMS (they text-message by cellphone their destination postcode to the system), and then packages travellers going in the same direction into one vehicle at a discounted fare.
Texxi (“Texxi, the taxi you text”) is a demand-responsive transit brokerage (DRT Brokerage) system.
Prospective passengers send their postcode to the Texxi SMS number. The system then aggregates other passengers wanting to go to the same area and confirms details of the taxi driver’s name and badge number to the passengers.
Passengers are instructed to go to pre-determined pickup points to meet the driver who will have received a text confirming each passenger’s booking reference.
In the prototype demonstration in Liverpool, each passenger will pre-pay a flat fee of £5.
Benefits of this approach include:
Lower passenger fares for point-to-point travel.
Increased revenue for the taxi driver for essentially the same work.
Reduction of potential CO2 emissions and fuel consumption as the total number of trips are reduced.
Texxi is the brainchild of Crane Dragon—a new venture founded by four partners designed to develop new solutions and companies.
The concept for Texxi came from an Operational Analysis research problem applied to the financial markets. One of the four founders noticed that credit contagion algorithms he had developed in investment banking could similarly be used to aggregate groups of people going to roughly the same destination and direct them to a single vehicle maximizing the limited resources available.
The founders modeled the Texxi system on peak demand times: 11 pm–4 am on Friday and Saturday in Liverpool when there is a huge spike in demand for taxis.
There are 1,600 Hackney (Black London type) cabs and 22,000 private hire vehicles in Liverpool to serve a nominal population of 500,000. This is the highest per capita number of Hackney cabs (cabs you can hail on the street) for any city in the UK and yet at least 50% of the nighttime population will have to walk some or all of the way home most weekends.—Eric Masaba, Crane Dragon
As a solution for getting pub revelers home safely and economically, this is mildly interesting, and with some net benefit on the emissions-reduction and fuel-efficiency side of the ledger.
Applied more broadly as a solution to reduce urban congestion and single-passenger trips at times of peak demand, however, Texxi could begin to make a measurable impact.
Furthermore, the Crane Dragon team has larger ambitions. They intend to roll out this technology to industrializing nations as soon as possible. (China is an ideal target.)
The UK postal code is currently the foundation of the system’s geo-coding. As used currently in Texxi, using the first character of the second grouping (for an explanation of the design of the UK postal code system, see here) brings everyone to about 400m of their destination. Not quite door-to-door, but a fair fit of cost and result.
For developing countries (such as in East Africa), Texxi will build its “own” postcode system using triangulation from mobile masts as an overlay guide. (And perhaps improve mail delivery as well.)
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