ABU DHABI // The emirate's newer silver taxis are to be fitted with sensors that automatically start the meter running once a passenger is seated, preventing drivers from overcharging or negotiating a flat rate. Seat sensors or infrared motion sensors will be fitted to the taxis by the end of next month, said Sultan Mohammed al Shamisi, director of customer service and compliance for TransAD, the agency that regulates taxis. "Once the passenger gets in the taxi the meter will be automatically activated," Mr Shamisi said. "The driver does not need to start the meter. There is no need for human interaction." Several of the emirate's seven taxi franchises have already begun installing the sensors, he added. The less-expensive gold and white cabs, which are to be phased out as more silver taxis are introduced, will not be fitted with the devices. The move was welcomed by many taxi passengers yesterday, including some who said they have had to haggle with drivers over fares. While drivers of the older gold and white cabs are known to turn off their meters around midnight or when making longer trips, drivers of silver taxis generally abide by TransAD rules and keep their meters running. The rates of silver taxis increase by a few fils at night, whereas the gold and white taxis are supposed to charge the same rate at all times. However, twice in the past month employees of The National have hailed a silver taxi after midnight and seen the driver fail to turn on his meter. On both occasions the driver tried to charge more than the ride would normally have cost. Makesh Mohan, 26, who was waiting in a queue at Al Wahda Mall yesterday, said putting sensors in taxis was a good idea. He said he had never had any trouble with silver taxis, but drivers of white and gold cabs and forced him to negotiate a flat rate after midnight. "The last time I was working overnight I had that experience," said Mr Mohan, from India. He has also had drivers ask him where he was going, then refuse to take him. Jarwin Castillo, 28, from the Philippines, said he had "no problem" with the silver taxis, but complained that when hailing a white and gold cab in the Khalidiya area he was often made to pay Dh10 for a cab ride that should cost Dh4. "Because it is Khalidiya they say it is very crowded," he said. "They will not go for the price of the meter." Mr Shamisi said unhappy customers should complain by calling TransAD on 600 535353. Operating either type of taxi with the meter off is against TransAD's rules and considered a serious offence. The penalty for a first infringement is Dh500 (US$136) and three demerit points from the regulator, while a repeat offence earns them a Dh1,000 fine and three more points. A driver who receives nine demerit points within a year will have their permit suspended for a period decided by TransAD. Their permit will be suspended for a longer time if they accumulate 15 demerit points within a year, and again if they receive 20 points within a 36-month period. Anyone receiving more than 20 points has their permit cancelled, he said. Taxi franchisees are already able to use GPS systems installed in many cabs to pinpoint a driver's location and monitor his speed. The system also shows if a cab is for hire or has a passenger, if the ignition is on or off and how many trips it has made. Eventually the system, produced by CERT Info-track Telematics, will allow operators to dispatch drivers to a waiting passenger. There are about 6,900 of the older taxis still in use in the emirate, and about 2,700 silver cabs in service, Mr Shamisi said. email@example.com
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