June 11, 2008

Why Don't All Taxis Have GPS Units?

I was on my way home from the lab just now and stopped off at the Mobil station at Main and Mill to pick up a pack of smokes. As I left the store, a Yellow Cab driver approached me and asked me how to get to Webster. He'd never been there before and had to pick up a fare there. I've never been there either as far as I know, so I first told the cabbie that I didn't know. I wasn't really thinking; it has been a long day.

So the cabbie went back to his cab and started fumbling with a map. I got back to my car and remembered that I have a GPS unit. I took the "lady in the box" out of the glove compartment, switched her on and approached the cab.

I knocked on the window and asked the cabbie to give me the address he was trying to get to, then punched it into the unit and there they were, turn by turn directions right to the door where his far was waiting in Webster. The driver, an African fellow, thanked me profusely and waited for me to pull out of the lot ahead of him.

Now, this is reason to ponder. Why aren't taxis equipped with GPS units? There are always places that some driver is bound not to know how to get to, and a GPS unit is a lot better for such things than a paper map. As someone who absolutely lacks a sense of direction and relies on both a car GPS and a hand held unit to get me where I'm going on-road and off, I can attest to how indispensable these things really are. Moreover, I can't figure out how cabbies can earn a living these days with the price of gas through the roof. I'd imagine the last thing a driver wants to do is waste gas; every excess gallon burned is money out of his pocket and I'd be willing to bet there's not a lot in there to begin with these days.

Why, then, don't the owners of taxi fleets provide drivers with GPS units that they could sign out if they wanted them? It would probably cut a few minutes out of the time it took a driver to pick up a fare and get them where they were going, it would likely save gas, and it would help new drivers learn their way around. There are some pretty good deals on the things these days and I'm sure someone buying multiple units could work out a deal on price with a supplier.

Paper maps waste time and money. Get with the digital age, fleet owners!

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