Service: The introduction of GPS was controversial but supporters of the system say it now enables 
cabbies to respond more quickly and efficiently to customers, such as cruise ship passengers.  *File photo
Service: The introduction of GPS was controversial but supporters of the system say it now enables cabbies to respond more quickly and efficiently to customers, such as cruise ship passengers. *File photo

Instead of fumbling for change in the back of a cab, you could soon be paying by credit card — if Government sticks with GPS.

But, if the satellite digital tracking system becomes ‘optional’ among taxi drivers, this will hit a red light.

BTA (Dispatching) Ltd wants to introduce card payments plus Internet booking apps.

But the new technology will be stalled — even dropped — if Government proceeds with legislation to scrap mandatory GPS under the Motor Car Amendment Act 2005.

Raymond Robinson, president of BTA (Dispatching) Ltd, said: “We are adamant that eight out of 10 passengers are ‘money-less’ these days, and want to use credit cards.

Ready to roll

“We have all the software and have spoken to the banks and vendors. We are ready to roll, with everything in place, but we need to know — should we make the investment?

“That is contingent on Government. The last thing we want to do is spend all that money and then for Government to make GPS optional.

“We need ‘X’ amount of (digital) subscribers to use it (card billing). But some drivers might say, ‘I will go with digital’ but others go with radio (dispatch).”

Mr Robinson said shareholders — 188 of whom are cabbies — wanted to “move forwards” but were apprehensive of getting stung by Government moving backwards on digital systems.

Since being established in 2005, BTA has invested heavily in new technology, he said. 

“We have spent $1.5 million on hardware and software, servers and telecommunications. As we operate off the same antennas as cellphone providers, so have to buy repeaters for all the towers.

“But we’re not going to invest any more money until we know what Government is going to do.

“In their (the OBA’s) pre-election platform, they said they would make digital dispatch (GPS) optional, and now it is as if they have to appease the voters.

“But we feel they got some bad advice.”

Governments have ‘fumbled’

On October 2, Shawn Crockwell, Minister of Tourism and Transport, said Government was considering making GPS “optional” under amendments to the Motor Car Act. 

Mr Robinson said: “I can’t see how our Government, in 2013, would feel that two-way radio might be the way to go; it blows my mind.”

He said the PLP government had also fumbled.

Mr Robinson said: “We feel Government — past and present — is stalling. 

“We’ve (BTA) been compliant with the law, but there are some taxis out there with nothing, and we feel the other two companies (Bermuda Island Taxi and BIU Co-op Taxi) are waffling.

“To make it (GPS) optional will lead to some drivers saying, ‘I’ll stick with radio’, and it will lose money for us and our drivers.

“We’ve got 428 owners who have paid upwards of $2,000 to have an MDT (mobile data terminal) installed in their car.

“GPS is just one small component of what the system is capable of doing. It’s a management system that collects and sends out information. 

“If you have 3-400 cruise ship passengers in St George’s who need to get back to Dockyard before their boat leaves, we can disseminate that information among our drivers.

“When we know a big event is on we can put it into the system.

“With this MDT we could also create our own apps, so people could book their taxi on the Internet.

“It’s all about providing service, and we feel that with this system, we can provide it.”