By Triska Hamid
Dubai taxis will offer free Wi-Fi in all cars by the end of the year as part of a push to create a “smart” city.
People will be able to connect their smartphones, tablets or laptops and surf the internet as soon as they enter the taxi, said a Road and Transport Authority (RTA) official. The service is already available in 155 Hala Taxis across the city.
“Connectivity is important,” said Abdulla Al Madani, the chief executive of corporate support services at the Road and Transport Authority (RTA). “Wherever we can provide free Wi-Fi and internal services, we will do.”
The authority is working through a third party service provider that hopes to generate profits from the service through advertising.
It comes off the back of new initiatives recently launched, among them Wi-Fi services on intercity buses and internet connected bus shelters to help to achieve the government’s plans to become a fully fledged smart city in time for Dubai Expo 2020, where the aim is to connect the city’s infrastructure to the internet and make it more accessible to its citizens via smartphones and other smart devices.
As part of this plan, the RTA also wants to open a city-wide command and control centre to integrate all of its transport offerings.
“We are integrating all [the services], like the London experience. They created a big command and control centre for the entire city during the Olympics and we are doing it for the entire transport system,” said Mr Al Madani. “Hopefully in the future it will have more proactive information for customers.”
The day to day control of the different modes of transport will continue to be managed independently, but the main control centre will look at integrating everything together to help to ease congestion, provide reliable and up to date information to users and ensure a “smoother” operation across the board.
The traffic lights across the city will eventually be able to communicate with one another to aid traffic and prevent congestion.
The command and control centre will be up and running by 2017, said Mr Al Madani, with a tender for a partner set to be issued next month. It is looking to both London and Singapore’s Land Transport Authority as a guide for traffic management and transaction systems to ensure the speediest and most efficient way to travel.
In a bid to drive up efficiency and customer satisfaction, the RTA is also rolling out credit and debt card payments for its 1,000 fleet of taxis before this summer. Customers will also be able to pay for taxi journeys with Nol cards, a pre-paid smart card already in use for Dubai’s metro and bus networks.
Currently 20 taxis in Dubai accept card and mobile payment and by the end of the year 8,000 taxis will accept payment via the Nol card.
The RTA registers close to 2 million transactions on Nol cards per day, across the metro, bus and parking services. So far, more than 7.5 million Nol cards have been issued.
Last year, more than 440 million passengers used public transport in Dubai, which includes buses, water taxis and the metro, up from 367 million in 2012. Every day, more than 1.3 million people use public transport in the city.
“The total ridership of taxis [Dubai Taxi and franchise companies fleet] amounted to 174.018 million riders last year compared to 137.390 million riders in 2012. The RTA-owned Dubai Taxi cabs alone served 72.167 million riders, and franchise companies taxicabs lifted 101.85 million riders,” said Mattar Al Tayer, the chairman and executive director at RTA this week.
The authority recently launched a journey planner mobile application called Wojhati, which it claims is the first Arabic journey planner service.
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