Two American expats living in Thailand think they’ve found a way to revolutionize the motorcycle taxi industry: Equip the bikes with portable “Moto-Meters.”
It seems like a no-brainer, but surprisingly, these meters don’t always exist, especially in such an unregulated industry where fares are often negotiated personally between drivers and passengers. Paul Giles, the president of World Moto, and his partner and Chief Technical Officer Chris Ziomkowski poured $1 million over three years into research and development for the first-of-its-kind device, which will launch this March in Bangkok, home to an estimated 180,000 moto-taxis. While the Moto-Meter is designed to sit above the handlebars of motorcycles, it can also be used in tuk-tuks or rickshaws.
World Moto’s meters will offer several benefits:
- Cheaper than standard taximeters, priced at 5,599 baht ($182) per box
- Protection against environmental hazards, like dust and water (the life expectancy of the device is 3-5 years)
- Revenues (split between World Moto and the drivers) from advertisements displayed on LED screens
- A GPS-enabled “black box” device (commonly found in airplanes) to monitor driving behavior and record data in case of a crash, ultimately used as a way to promote safe driving, deter theft, and reduce traffic injuries or fatalities
- Anti-tampering features to ensure fair and accurate rates
- The ability to accept electronic cash payments via radio-frequency identification technology and smart cards
World Moto is starting its pilot project in several tourist areas in Bangkok beginning February 14, in coordination with the Bangkok city government, before making the devices commercially available. The rate is set at 10 Thai baht ($0.32) per kilometer.
“A test of the system in Brazil involving 200 motorcycle taxis showed drivers reporting a 15% increase in fare revenue after nine months excluding additional income gained from ads,” according to Bangkok Post. Giles says this could go a long way in making drivers feel more legitimate. “It’s just a feeling of, ‘I’ve been marginalized for such a long time. Here’s a device I can feel proud of myself with,'” he explains to FastCompany.
Like in other parts of the world, taxi drivers—whether on motorcycles or rickshaws—are often at the mercy of regulatory authorities, corrupt syndicates, manufacturers and even their own customers. At the same time, in response to poor regulation and enforcement, drivers are also guilty of frequent refusals and overcharging, which doesn’t help the image of the taxi industry. For the millions of urban dwellers all around the world who rely on these low-cost, convenient transit services, it is imperative that companies like World Moto and others find ways to modernize and streamline the sector.
“There will be uses for [Moto-Meter] we can’t even predict,” Giles says. He and Ziomkowski project revenues of $10.2 million by the first quarter of next year. (You can read more about their business plan here.)