There’s a new type of metered taxi rolling through the streets of South Africa: one that’s safer and more convenient to use. And it’s all about plastic. Bank card plastic, that is. 15 of these special cabs are currently operating in bustling Johannesburg and Cape Town, all fitted with smoothly-integrated card machines that they’re piloting until the end of April.
The specialised machines allow passengers to use all major credit and debit cards to pay for a trip, without getting taken for a ride. Fixed, secure card devices are used to key in pin codes and print out receipts ‚ meaning passengers are in control of their payments from beginning to end.
iMobilise Transportation introduced the VeriFone card machines to metered taxis in Jo’burg and Cape Town in late 2010. These devices are already in commercial use in major cities around the world, including New York, London and Istanbul.
iVeri has helped introduce the new technology onto South Africa’s streets by assisting with the integration of the machines to Nedbank using the iVeri Payment Gateway. The gateway is comprehensive, robust and flexible, making it perfect for multi-channel card payments. It routes the payments from source to target ‚ no matter where they are made and processed. Merchants using the gateway can therefore use a number of acceptance channels, but retain a single view of processed transactions.
According to iMobilise founder and managing director, Grant McGlashan, the partnership with iVeri has been a great success: ‚We’ve established such a good working relationship. We’re literally in bed with them now,‚ he says. ‚We’re married to them!‚
McGlashan says there’s been lots of interest in the payment system among taxi companies and individual drivers: ‚It’s amazing technology. There’s no hassle with carrying cash and it’s an advertising medium as well.
‚We saw a gap in the market between public transport like trains or buses, and a person’s next destination. How do you get from the train or bus station to your office or home? That’s where we come in. Customers also need a convenient method of payment. No one really likes carrying cash in South Africa, so let’s help them use their credit card.‚
McGlashan says the convenience of not having to carry cash is the system’s biggest draw card ‚for both customers and drivers: ‚Higher fares become possible because a passenger is not limited to the amount of cash in his or her wallet, and that’s good for drivers as well. The cabbies can expect higher tips and they also don’t have to drive around with lots of cash, which becomes a safety issue.‚
Johannesburg-based metered taxi driver Alson Dube is one of the lucky few who are piloting the system. ‚The more it comes into the market, the more [other drivers] will use it,‚ he says. ‚It’s quite handy, very good ‚Ä¶ and much safer.‚
McGlashan explains that the safety aspect extends to the transaction itself: ‚The data transaction that happens in the back of the taxi is picked up by the GSM network and encrypted at the terminal. It’s then delievered to our data centre in the US, and from there we extract the information we need like the fare info and the number of passengers.
‚When that’s done, the card transaction goes to iVeri. Nedbank then authorises it and it goes back to iVeri before being sent back to the terminal. It’s totally secure as a system, 100 percent secure.‚
The system also allows companies that use it to create loyalty programmes with corporate cards and possible discounts or benefits.
The screen is also used for advertising: it can be muted by customers, but the visual component is omnipresent, providing a perfect platform for targeted ad campaigns. Another of the machine’s added benefits is its tracking capabilities: it gives fleet owners the ability to monitor their vehicles’ movements remotely.
As the world moves towards a contactless, cashless society, systems like the iVeri/iMobilise collaboration will become increasingly useful. One day, cab customers might be able to pay for their ride, top up their cell phone airtime, make various online purchases and surf the internet ‚ all with the swipe of a card in the back of a taxi.