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An Open Letter to Uber

 

 

 

 

Awarded the

 

“RodinStar” Post 

 

of the week!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever since the un-called incident in Uber Delhi, i have been mulling over a thought, a solution. I have been wanting to pen this since Day Zero but thought that it so obvious that Uber would surely figure out. But i’m not seeing Uber coming closer to it. [or for that matter any other brand in the market

 

In an article in last week’s fortune, Uber Head of Global Safety Phillip Cardenas mentions “We are committed to ensuring Uber is the safest way to get around a city,” He added that his team has been working with outside safety experts to review the service’s passenger safety procedures.

 

But where is technology’s PLAY and more so when we have so much at our disposal.

 

Technology is the Ghost that follows us, whether we like it or not. It’s a delight when Google throws up options as soon as we hit the first key to search for something, facebook finds friends for us and flipkart tells us what we have to buy next. Then why can’t it figure out whether the car i’m traveling in isn’t on its path, it hasn’t reached the destination at the estimated time & so on !!!

 

IT SURELY CAN ! and this is how it can.

 

    • All our cars have OBD ports, where a small Intelligent OBD device can be plugged. As as simple as plugging a USB stick in our laptops.

 

    • These OBD devices are network enabled, thus they start talking to any server you want them too

 

    • These devices pick various data points from the vehicle and transmit it back. 

 

    • And there is a way by which these devices can’t be easily unplugged by the drivers

 

 

 

Image Source : www.Moj.io

 

So what does this device know now:

 

    • Whether the engine has been turned off

 

    • Whether the car hasn’t moved for while

 

    • The battery efficiency 

 

    • Speed & Mileage

 

    • Exact Location….etc

 

 

And all of this is empowered with Maps, which Uber & Google are so strong at. 

 

Now take a Use Case:

 

    • Uber has to pick you from Point A & drop you at Point B.

 

    • To travel from A to B there would ‘x’ options

 

    • The OBD device now tells the backend which option has been chosen for traveling from A to B.

 

    • And now there is an algorithm running at the backend which tracks the Uber and raises an alarm if,
        • Geographic fencing has been breached, which means the car is in a Geography it shouldn’t be for traveling from A to B

       

        • Rash Driving : The car is traveling at a speed it shouldn’t or taking sharp edgy curves or has harshly braked

       

        • Engine Shut off / No movement : The car is still at a location for more than the pre-defined time or is still at a location where traffic isn’t estimated

       

        • Time alarm : Based on traffic data and history of other travels, the car should have reached the particular location and it hasn’t.

       

        • Other technical failure : which means the car has broken down or met with an accident.

       

        • No data : There has been no data received from the OBD device.

       

       

 

 

All of this and much more is programmable and requires no manual intervention unless an Alarm is raised.

 

Apart from issues associated with Women’s Safety, we also don’t want to risk our lives in hands of drivers who are not worthy to even drive. The information received from the device can also be processed to figure out whether the driver is habitual in harsh braking, over racing and taking sharp curves. This in the long run would help Uber to filter out rash drivers from its system with no manual intervention

 

The above applies to all the radio cab services in the country.

 

Why isn’t Uber or Ola & other radio cabs thinking about technology to solve pain points. There is no dearth of data which can be collected from any smart device, here the car. We have so much of software grey matter in the country that would turn this data into valuable information, so that we are well equipped to AVOID ANOTHER DELHI.

 

Please ponder.

 

https://twitter.com/kinnaritd 

 

********

 

UPDATE ADDED BY ASHA ON APRIL 2, 2015:

 

Kinnari wrote to Shashi Tharoor and the PMO sharing this article.

 

Yesterday, Shashi Tharoor replied with this tweet! (we got loads of traffic and Kinnari got loads of twitter followers and more than 15 seconds of fame!)

 

 

And then we got some love from the media this morning!!

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson: Make your stories viral. Share them over social media. Share them with influencers. TWEET. Mention @therodinhoods every time you tweet your story. We will RT you!!

 

Ps: Pls always add your twitter handle at the end of your articles. 

 

*****

 

Comments

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18 Comments

  1. kinnari,

    when i read what you write only one thing comes to my mind “women in tech rock!” tomo i shall ping the radio taxi rodinhooders we have on trhs.

  2. Its all because u push me to the pen.

  3. While Uber et al. figure out how they’d like to address/implement this, I think we users can do few things using existing options. For people not aware, please download something like Gympse and and share your location in real-time, ETA with your trusted ones when you take a taxi/Uber etc. Many of my friends use it in US when they ride with Uber/Lyft etc.

    http://www.glympse.com/what-is-glympse

    P.S. I’m NOT affiliated in any way to Glympse.

  4. I just checked Glympse…its a good alternate

  5. Waze and Glympse do have some of these features which can be integrated with Radio Taxi wallahs.
    Kinnari – you are correct, Technology should be used.

    Bas ek baat ki chinta hai : Despite everything being OK, its a mere thought which triggers a good human to become a bad human at that point in time. Nothing unfortunately can be done about that. We all have to keep trying to control the other controllable stuff.

  6. Great write up Kinnari !

    We’ve built a product around Women Safety and Vehicle Location Tracking featured here last week – http://therodinhoods.com/forum/topics/kidhar-hai-application-that-ensures-safety

    And We’re working on OBD devices to get the data and summarize it to POIs like Driving habits, Tracking Fuel Consumption to curb fuel theft problem faced by transport companies

    We’re looking for partner companies to help push this out in the market.

    If anyone would be interested to piggy-back on our Infrastructure / Back-end please get in touch – contact@pleximus.com

  7. Kinnari,

    I think current tech is already sufficient for the purpose. The drivers are given an M2M device, whose GPS is used to track and bill the client. Im sure it doesnt match a few functionalities of the OBD device such as engine status and A/C status. But it has capabilities of calculating the speed and whether the car is stopped in a non-traffic area etc.

    I understand that the OBDs are harder to turn off than the cellphone. But ones who want to, will do. I have had the experience with OBDs at the commonwealth games in Delhi, where TATA provided 1800 cars (and I was told unofficially, that around 6 went amiss by the end of the games)

    Uber and other providers are already burning serious moneys to upgrade the market. In our country, they had to provide drivers with the phones and pay for their M2M packages too along with other incentives to both riders and drivers. The solution (for it to be viable and sustainable for all) needs to be found with the current infrastructure.

    Can’t phones double up as OBD devices? Just a thought :-/

    And BTW, we always have two devices onboard when a ride is taken: -The driver’s and the rider’s, lets utilize them both to add to the accuracy

  8. True. Human intervention would always be mandatory. Just that the basic intelligence layer is best done by technology. Its fast & data driven. Humans would take a little longer to process lots and lots of data at a given time.

  9. Last year i was mentoring a company in this space. But they were not ready to take the big leap, various reasons 🙂

  10. OBD &  any IOT technology for that matter would always have an extra brownie point. Going the OBD route or not is a call the operators have to take based on their Safety & Operational bench marks.With riders & driver’s device we’ll have all issues like low battery, GPS being ON or Not.

    Also on the cost front, an OBD device with a small screen for driver interface surely works out to be a lot cheaper than the providing drivers with the phones

  11. We are a start up working on the managed security space for travel.Our finding has been there are multiple interventions existing on the technology side .OBD devices,GPS,Apps etc .The main issues that I have seen are :

    1) Drivers :Today they are individuals owning their cars and acting independently getting attached to multiple vendors.In some sense freelancers with no organisation having a track of their credentials,and living on a month to month basis with variable incomes due to fluctuating incentive schemes from the aggregators.We are working on getting these drivers verfied by government agencies and creating a database with employer ratings feedback etc to ensure there is visibility to vendors when they recruit.Also using this to give them social security measures like family insurance,financial planning,health check ups

    2) With all the features technology provides who responds in case of a crisis is still a big  question, you cannot expect help to arrive from friends and family at night,or from the police that is already stretched .We are working with OLA on creating an ecosystem around it and  of all the companies I avhe spoken to they are the ones who are thinking about this issue at the highest level and are always looking for solutions to improve

    3) We are also working on creating a separate service class with enhanced safety features and customers who are concerned about the security can opt for this service.

    I believe technology in isolation cannot guarantee security it has to be a combination of technology+process+people .It is a big ask ,we know .We are working to do that.IF you would like to discuss more do drop a note to ansa@transsecure.in will be happy to discuss

  12. hey kinnari,

    i’ve updated your post with all the excitement!!!

  13. kinnari – i messed up the top of your post now :))))

    this rodinstar is not because you made is all famous; it’s simply because we all love the way you just candidly share what you feel and try to make the world a better place.

    your pro-activeness is contagious. 

    thank you for being so awesome!

  14. Sweet!!! 

  15. Hi Kinnari, 

    Congratulations on your article. Well apart from the Technological additions we also need to train the drivers. I would also like to consider the Germanwings incidence wherein the pilot crashed the plane because he was upset. Similarly a driver may rape a passenger because he does not like women working or more successful than him. Rape is psychological disease. So if Uber could also keep a track on the mental condition of the drivers by doing complete reference check and by holding a seminar or workshop once a month it would help. 

    Regards, 

    Aishwarya

  16. Hey Anoop,

    A database for drivers is something i was discussing with a start-up in the OBD space the other day. It’s the need of the hour. Also, with lot of analytic built into it, it could act as a reference point for companies in the radio taxi space. It has to be a blanket exercise across the industry done by an independent agency….much like the way CIBIL functions.

    Regarding response to action : the first action according to me lies with the operator, like in the case of any hired service that a consumer opts for …be it airlines, railway, buses..etc. Consumer safety has to be a top priority. Government agencies are available to help in case its a law and order situation/

    Consumer safety in an opted fashion or otherwise, is defined by the DNA of the company in operation. 

    & yes, as i had earlier mentioned, technology doesn’t work in isolation. But it surely gives us a starting point, by analysing data & turning into information in pre-defined formats for us to make quick & reliable calls.

  17. Thank you so much.

  18. All firms in the service business have to invest in people. Their ability to identify training needs and subsequently imparting training is what sets them apart from the competition & would decide their survival in the business. Be it airline, radio taxi, organised retail, bank…all of them. 

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