Did you know that at least 180 gypsy cab drivers in New York died in the hands of violent passengers in the 1990s? And that at least 33 taxi drivers are killed on duty every year? While the world is raging with taxi passenger safety issues, a personal incident triggered the thought to look into safety of taxi drivers. In the concluding part of our two-blog series on taxi safety measures, we take you on a journey through some interesting patents that can help drivers steer safe of irate passengers who may put the their lives at peril.
It was past midnight on a weekend when we stepped into a hired taxi in Bangalore to travel home from a busy commercial hub. While we were under the notion that passengers are extremely wary of cab drivers during this hour, we were surprised to find our cab driver a little nervous. He was subtly cross-questioning us through small talk to check if we were inebriated. Amused, we asked him to voice his concern about us and he sighed with relief… we were sober.
We ended up having an extremely interesting conversation that triggered the subject for this blog – his fear of inebriated passengers who get extremely violent, especially during the wee hours of the day. He narrated a couple of shocking incidents that he and his colleagues often face when picking up passengers from unsafe neighbourhoods or off deserted streets. In many instances, such passengers display unruly and violent behaviour causing much harm to both the driver and the vehicle. And most often than not, drivers can barely retaliate.
Now this is not a one off situation in a single city or country. Consider the case of New York alone. Driving a gypsy cab in New York is believed to be one of the most dangerous jobs. In the decade of 1990, 180 drivers were murdered while on duty, according to statistics available with the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. Even the Victorian WorkCover Authority states that about 400 taxi drivers are caused grave injuries annually by passengers. Taxi Library, a US-based website serving the taxicab industry across the world states that between 1994 and 2013, an average of 33 taxi drivers have been victims of occupational homicide annually.
So what’s the solution to keep our cabbies safe?
For one, a patent US 4259664 has an interesting solution. Titled aptly as “Taxicab robbery alerting system”, this patent describes the inclusion of a silent foot switch that can be selectively operated by the taxicab driver to send out an alarm when the driver is threatened by a robber-passenger.
This foot switch actuates a radio transmission to the central dispatch office of the cab service provider and simultaneously illuminates a special warning signal on the top of the cab, in a location and with a color and intensity such that it is not visible to its occupants. In a scenario where the robber forces a cab driver to take the vehicle to a deserted location, the cabbie can use that short window of time to alert people around him for help.
Our opinion: Now, while the patentee describes a subordinate feature that allows the driver to switch off the SOS signal, we suggest that the process is automated and the lights switch off automatically when any of the doors open. This will ensure that if the robber ever gets off the vehicle, he doesn’t realize that the driver has alerted for help.
A mannequin for company
An interesting companion for a cab driver is an emergency inflatable mannequin. Ideated by Edwin D. Brown, patent US 5367294 could provide a possibly effective solution in protecting cab drivers from errant passengers.
The invention speaks of placing a compact inflatable object near the driver which can be inflated instantaneously to look like a real creature from the outside of the car. The object can also make sounds that alert passersby of trouble within the car.
Our opinion: We find that this invention can be put to use much beyond the inventor’s suggestions. In fact, it can be placed strategically such that it can cut off the passenger’s contact from the passenger, thus giving the driver a valuable few minutes to escape from violent passenger.
The roving eye
Monitoring public movement with cameras is no new technology now. However, it has been extremely useful is curbing crime and in nabbing criminals across various industries. How about implementing this for taxi safety as well?
It is common knowledge that several cab service providers have installed cameras inside the taxi. But patent US 20110058039 A1 describes an additional feature that if implemented can enhance the safety level of tax drivers. It enunciates a security system that includes a camera installed on the top of a taxi. The camera rotates to capture the image of the passenger while boarding and disembarking. The images are transferred through a GPS system to a central database that can be accessed in case of a mishap or for cross-verification.
These are just a few interesting and powerful patented inventions for cab driver safety that we are talking about. Open the world of patents and you have several useful ideas that if implemented in times such as these, can make riding a taxi a secure experience for both passengers and drivers.
(Featured image source: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=180393&picture=nyc-yellow-taxi)