x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

New taxi service for capital

Passengers can book using automated phone system that will retain callers' information.

ABU DHABI // TransAD is introducing an automated reservation booking system for its 7,000 silver taxis.

It means that all companies are now equipped with voice detection technology systems that can manage a higher number of calls and make bookings faster.

Irene Khabuya, 26, relies on the system when she has slept in and missed the bus. The new system will save her a few precious minutes on hold.

"If it's fast and it gets me where I need to go fast, it's good," said Ms Khabuya, a sales assistant from Uganda. "When I'm late for work, I have to use it."

Customers can book by calling 600-53-53-53 and the caller's address is then linked to the nearest available taxi. A text with the taxi number, the driver's name and phone number and its arrival time will then be sent. The system can store addresses in the system, recognising passengers for future reservations.

The first call takes several minutes as customers are asked for their location.

"We hope that the new automated reservation system will make the reservation process faster, easier and meets customer expectation," said a statement released by TransAD yesterday.

The system is available in Arabic and English.

"Urdu would be even better, they should do it in Urdu too," said Muna Abdulhamid, 42, a hairdresser from Pakistan. "Lots of people don't speak English or Arabic."

In the first hour the system was launched, 40 per cent of taxi bookings were made through the interactive voice programme.

Bulbul Mia, 27, a driver from Bangladesh who spends about Dh30 a day in petrol cruising for customers welcomed the system.

"It's good for me. I get customers, I get money, that's it," he said.

He said he receives about 20 calls a day from the centre.

The service has a Dh5 charge.

"Sometimes customers are surprised by this but I like it because normally we take only Dh6 for one trip," said Cathura Malinda, a driver from Sri Lanka. "With this, I take a booking charge of Dh1 and Dh4 is for the company."

Mr Abdulhamid said he thought it was small price to pay.

"If there is ever a time when I am in trouble, I would call and Dh5 would be no problem," he said. "It's a great thing for people far away from the city."

The system can also be used to change reservations.

In the future, voice detection technology and online booking will be available in Ras Al Khaimah. Currently, bookings can be made through a 24-hour operator.

"When the capacity grows we will switch to an automated system," said Jason Farhat, the RAK Transport Authority director of commercial and investment affairs.

"It can take more calls at once, the accessibility is easier but we take into consideration most people would rather have a direct communication, person to person."

azacharias@thenational.ae