How many times have you sat in traffic caused by an accident or breakdown and wished there was a better way to beat the gridlock? A home-grown innovation that hit Australian streets today might just help you.
Our journey started three years ago when taxi industry veterans Shafiq Khan and Sajid Khan – now the Managing Director and CTO of Cab Digital – spent an hour in traffic following an accident on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. They thought, “what if we could tell motorists that there was an accident and to take an alternate route?” From that, the idea for TaxiLive was born.
We wanted to design a digital billboard for the back of taxis that could be updated depending on the taxi’s location, the time of day, or even the weather. If you were a motorist passing a TaxiLive-enabled taxi, you could be alerted to an upcoming traffic jam, accident or road work, and be able to take an alternate route. That solution could also be updated depending on the time of day, a handy reminder for example to slow down during school zone hours.
Being the first to market with our idea was extremely important to us. While cabs in London and New York have digital displays, they are extra boxes attached to the roof of the cab and are designed to be seen by more pedestrians than motorists. For the Australian market – with our small CBDs, and cultural obsession with our cars – the TaxiLive solution needed to be an entirely custom-built boot of the taxi, primarily designed for passing motorists to see.
We spent our first year trying to navigate the various suppliers we would need to make our dream a reality. But the reality was more complicated than we thought, and would take us a long time to get off the ground – more time than we could afford to waste as a technology startup.
During that tough first year, there were moments when we thought our vision was slowly becoming too difficult.
Enter Telstra, one of the first true believers in what we were trying to accomplish. Not only did they share an abundance of expertise on how to develop and operate a mobile network based platform, they took it a step further and helped co-develop the solution with us. Rather than procuring the various components ourselves and putting them altogether, Telstra sourced and connected it all as a finished, ready to go product.
The final TaxiLive product is a custom-built taxi boot, with a built-in 32 inch digital screen, connected via Telstra’s mobile network that we are able to remotely manage via Telstra’s M2M Control Centre platform.
Our account manager connected us with technical experts from across the entire Telstra Enterprise business, who helped us with everything from proofs of concept before finalising the design, to ensuring the solution works seamlessly across the Telstra mobile network, to even opening doors for us to possible advertising partners.
What’s next for Cab Digital Media? We think the TaxiLive solution is a great example of how technology and the Internet of Things will continue to connect and digitise new things all around us, creating smarter cities and communities. With this in mind, our longer-term ambition is to partner with roadside authorities to share the invaluable GPS data generated from each TaxiLive unit which could contribute to future transport, infrastructure and congestion reduction initiatives.
With the right data, we may be able to look at things like which taxi ranks are over-populated and under-serviced to ensure better taxi availability, particularly in areas such as hospitals and locations with a higher proportion of elderly and disabled people.
Thanks to Telstra’s help, the first TaxiLive cabs are on the road today in Sydney. By April 1, there should be 300 – and we hope to have 1000 TaxiLives on roads around Australia by November this year. So next time you’re in your car stuck in a traffic jam, or wondering what’s on TV tonight – look out for a TaxiLive on the road near you!