Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How Are Taxi Cabs Dispatched?

How Are Taxi Cabs Dispatched?

The activity of taxicab fleets is usually monitored and controlled by a central office, which provides dispatching, accounting, and human resources services to one or more taxi companies. Taxi owners and drivers usually communicate with the dispatch office through either a 2-way radio or a computer terminal, called a mobile data terminal.

Before the innovation of radio dispatch in the 1950s, taxi drivers would use a callbox—a special telephone at a taxi stand—to contact the dispatch office. Taxi fleets aren't the only mode of hired transportation to use two-way communication systems. Luxury sedans and limo services also incorporate these kinds of systems in their vehicles.

When a customer calls for a taxi, a call is dispatched by either radio or computer via an in-vehicle mobile data terminal, to the most suitable cab. The most suitable cab may either be the one closest to the pick-up address. These days, this is often determined by GPS coordinates. It also can be the one that was the first to book in to the "zone" surrounding the pickup address. Cabs are sometimes dispatched from their taxi stands. A call to "Top of the 2" means that the first cab in line at stand #2 is supposed to pick someone up.

In offices using radio dispatch, taxi locations are often tracked using magnetic "pegs" on a "board"—a metal sheet with an engraved map of taxi zones. In computerized dispatch, the status of taxis is tracked by the computer system.

Taxi frequencies are generally licensed in duplex pairs. One frequency is used for the dispatcher to talk to the cabs, and a second frequency is used to the cabs to talk back. This means that the drivers generally cannot talk to each other. Some cabs have a CB radio in addition to the company radio so they can speak to each other.

In the United States, there is a Taxicab Radio Service with pairs assigned for this purpose. A taxi company can also be licensed in the Business Radio Service. Business frequencies in the UHF range are also licensed in pairs to allow for repeaters, though taxi companies usually use the pair for duplex communications.

Some companies don't operate their own radio system and instead subscribe to a Specialized Mobile Radio system. The conventional radios are most suited to companies that operate within the local area and have a high volume of radio traffic. The SMR is more commonly used by luxury sedan services that cover a wider area. It's also used by smaller companies who use less airtime and don't want to run their own radio systems.
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