On Campus

Drive to Make Boston a Safer Place

By Clemens Raemy (OA), Contributing Writer

Taxi drivers and passengers across Boston are gearing up for the launch of a new iPhone application to combat the lack of taxi safety. SaferTaxi (www.safertaxi.com) replica watches, founded by two HBS’11 students (Clemens Raemy and Jesus Fernandez) and one Wharton student (Christian Lechner), aspires to fight taxi crime by offering a platform where users register their rides, rate their experiences and share safety information about their driver and journey.

SaferTaxi applies the user generated hotel and restaurant rating concept to the taxi industry. By registering rides and using customer feedback, SaferTaxi empowers customers and makes journeys safer, more convenient and more enjoyable.

Elisabeth Koll, Associate Professor in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit, said: “SaferTaxi and the team behind this start up are a great example how HBS students take initiatives to make student life safer and more convenient. Among student-led entrepreneurial endeavors //www.replicaforbest.co.uk/replica-breitling-watches-sale-for-uk.html, SaferTaxi clearly sticks out as it pursues a social goal with wide-ranging implications for the users and providers of taxi services.”

The aim of the service is to ensure people in Boston get home safely by making drivers accountable. The pioneering iPhone app allows the user to register the taxi’s or limousine’s license plate number before entering the vehicle and a record is created at www.SaferTaxi.com. The registration with SaferTaxi acts as a prevention mechanism, as the driver now knows that by registering his car the user left a trace. This system of accountability will encourage the best and safest driver behavior. As a second mechanism the taxi license plate number is immediately compared against reported incidents and the rating database. The user will instantly receive a response with the details of any previous reported incidents and a rating for the car. The immediate response will enable passengers to make an informed decision on whether to enter the car, stay in the car, or to leave. Once the ride is over the user has the option to rate the journey (via cell phone or online). In addition, users can chose to activate the DoubleSafety option on a registration by registration basis whereby the user needs to submit a password confirming a safe arrival. Failure to submit the password within one hour of the ride registration will result in the user’s designated emergency contact being notified about the time, the location and registration number of the last taken vehicle. In the case of emergency the EmergencyAlert button allows users also to send the same information to their emergency contacts instantly. The DoubleSafety and EmergencyAlert service helps parents, husbands, wives and friends to make contact being notified about the time, the location and registration number of the last taken vehicle. In the case of emergency the EmergencyAlert button allows users also to send the same information to their emergency contacts instantly. The DoubleSafety and EmergencyAlert service helps parents, husbands, wives and friends to make sure that their loved ones get home safely. The SaferTaxi service can be used without registering online, however, to activate the DoubleSafety or EmergencyAlert option passengers first need create an account with the details of one or more the emergency contacts.

Raemy and his co-founders set out to develop SaferTaxi after what they describe as a dangerous taxi experience in Buenos Aires in April 2009. But the service could be useful in Boston as well, he added. “The biggest complaints in Boston are that credit card machines aren’t working, drivers are consistently on the phone, taxis are in really bad condition, and that drivers are famous for taking customers the long way. We have even come across reports of verbal abuse and sexual advances from drivers in the Boston area in our research.”

“As a college woman, in my early 20s, I don’t always feel safe getting into a taxi,” Natalie Sandman, Harvard College 2012, said. “I think this service provides accountability for the driver, and…it can make the community a better place.” According to Isaiah Kacyvenski (HBS’11) “The SaferTaxi iPhone app is a must have”.

However, SaferTaxi  is not only about added safety, but also helps passengers recover lost items; there are over 12,000 laptops, iPods, memory sticks, and wallets left in taxis every year in Boston.

SaferTaxi has come a long ways since Raemy, Fernandez and Lechner have come up with the idea in July 2009. During the first two semesters at HBS, the team focused on getting the technology right. Then, instead of going the traditional path of interning at a bank or a consulting firm, the founders chose to use the three month over the summer to launch the business. Supported by the HBS Rock Fellowship and the Wharton Venture Initiation Program, the founders spent their summers in London and Buenos Aires to start the company as a text message service. Within one month of existence in Buenos Aires, SaferTaxi already has received government endorsements, signed 5,000 taxis (1/8th of the taxi force in Buenos Aires), and has been mentioned in over 40 blogs and 5 news papers. In the UK SaferTaxi was granted by Transport for London the right to advertise its service inside MiniCabs and London Black Cabs. It is the first time ever a company has received permission to advertise a service inside MiniCabs. Furthermore, SaferTaxi has received corporate sponsoring from various partners including Kentaro Group AG, Sonico, and various clubs in Argentina and the UK worth USD 250,000.

“We encourage people to sign up early, download the application, and to really contribute to the database,” Raemy said. “Every person can help other people within their city. If it’s a bad review or a good review, it doesn’t matter. There are only 2,000 taxis in Boston and if we, for example, get 200 HBS students to rate each taxi ride they take, all Boston’s taxi fleet will be rated within 8 weeks. Your rating makes a difference!”

Once you downloaded the app, you will automatically get updated versions. The SaferTaxi programmers currently work on the SaferTaxi 2.0 app that allows users to also book taxis and to collect membership points for each rating. Similar to collected airline miles, SaferTaxi members can use these points to get free taxi rides. “We have many more great ideas how to improve the functionality of the SaferTaxi app, however, we do not want to give too much away at this point”, said Fernandez.

An Android and BlackBerry application for SaferTaxi will be available within the next few months, and students can sign up to receive updates about product development at www.safertaxi.com.

If you are interested to learn more about SaferTaxi or want to join the team as a technical co-founder (excellent programming skills are needed) please contact Raemy at clemens.raemy@safertaxi.com. Also, Fernandez and Raemy would like to ask you to help out an HBS startup and download and rate the application.

November 15, 2010
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