Abu Dhabi taxis to be fitted with wi-fi and phone chargers
ABU DHABI: Starting this summer, passengers will be able to recharge their mobile phones and access wi-fi via touch screens fitted in more than 4,000 Abu Dhabi taxis.
Brett Pearson, Taxi Media managing director, said wi-fi should be available in most taxis this year and the “next generation” of screens would have built-in phone chargers, discount vouchers and apps to download on to mobile devices.
Launched in July 2014, the touch-sensitive colour screens are installed in the back of the headrest of the front passenger seat. Test screens first appeared in December 2013 and Taxi Media Middle East now has 1,020 screens in Abu Dhabi taxis, with plans to fit them in Dubai cabs as well.
The system features a continuous 22-minute video loop with a mix of paid advertising, government announcements and promotional content for Abu Dhabi. There are also games, guides to shopping and entertainment, and prizes, such as holiday event tickets, on offer for those who complete onscreen surveys.
Rania Allouh, 39, uses taxis about three times a week. The Palestinian mother of four said she liked the concept, which provided some entertainment.
“My kids like playing the games on the screen so they’re not bored when we’re stuck in traffic,” she said. “I also find the information flashed on the screen useful.”
Alvin Asilo, a Filipino who works for a cargo company, however, said he and the driver could barely hear each other when he got into a cab fitted with a video screen.
The screen turns on at the same time as the taxi meter. The 31-year-old said he often found it difficult to give directions to his destination because of the noise.
Mr Asilo hoped that the new screens would have a live GPS feature. “It would really help newcomers as well as tourists who need to get around the city in a taxi.”
Mr Pearson said the screens were capable of mapping but needed live data and the cost was prohibitive because of UAE telecoms charges.
“Anywhere else in the world would have already gone live,” he said. “Generally, feedback has been positive and we hope to continue with the new services and functions.”
Customers, he said, often requested to have TV programmes in the units.
“While technically we can do that, the expensive cost of data in the UAE means that it will never be an option unless costs drop dramatically to be aligned with other parts of the world.”
Five Dubai taxis are now fitted with the screens, with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority and Blackwire vehicle wi-fi supplier as partners.
“We plan to have rolled out the service to 5,000 taxis by the summer,” Mr Pearson said. “Once we have gone live in Dubai and the additional screens in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, we expect the monthly audience to reach more than 16 million.”