ABU DHABI // People tired of desperately trying to flag down a taxi can now order one from a 24-hour call centre. Abu Dhabi's taxi regulator, TransAD, yesterday officially launched the service for passengers across the emirate, a year after the newer silver taxis took to the streets and eight months after it unveiled plans for the call centre and a GPS tracking and dispatch system. Khaled al Rashedi, the general manager of TransAD, said 1,300 of the emirate's 3,000 silver taxis had been fitted with GPS-enabled data terminals that will show them the locations of waiting passengers. He added that the second phase of the plan, building a passenger database containing GPS locations of customers' preferred pick-up spots, was under way. "Now we have the system, we are going to start collecting data. We are going to analyse this data," Mr Rashedi said. Customers will be able to dial 600 53 53 53 and speak to an operator in Arabic or English to request that the nearest available cab be sent to them. The service will cost an extra Dh2.50 (US$0.61) between 6am and 10pm, and Dh3 during other hours. The first time they phone the call centre, customers will be asked for their name, mobile number and location. An operator will then enter the passenger's GPS co-ordinates into a database.The next time the customer orders a cab from the call centre, a dispatcher will send a message to a nearby available cab. If the driver accepts the job, they will be given the customer's details, including telephone number and location on a GPS map. Customers will also be given the driver's name and mobile number. Mr Rashedi said the database would help better match the supply of taxis with demand. TransAD also plans to use the GPS data to track commuting patterns and keep tabs on drivers' performance. The system will enable TransAD to register how fast the drivers drive and how many hours they work among other things, which could help determine whether their permits are renewed. firstname.lastname@example.org
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