By Moses Mugerwa
Uganda’s public transport has undergone some notable changes in the past decade or so. New technology and use of smartphone apps has changed the way many Ugandans access boda-boda and taxi services.
E-hailing companies in Uganda such as Bolt have now become major players in an industry that used to be characterized by limited transport choices.
In addition to being more convenient, well-regulated and affordable, e-hailing services can also be the answer to improved safety on our roads. Through the GPS tracking of all rides taken on the e-hailing platform, safety is assured, and therefore, cases of unsafe incidents affecting riders and drivers, exclusively using registered apps are rare.
The exceptional cases usually occur when drivers or riders request for offline trips in order to bargain over the fare for the ride. In such circumstances, Bolt strongly discourages the use of the platform by drivers and/or riders to access contacts, and to negotiate for offline trips. This is because taking trips offline, turns off the app’s GPS tracking, thereby, neither the driver, nor the rider is traceable on the platform in case of accidents, or emergencies.
E-hailing service operators have put in place clear-cut measures to ensure safety for both drivers and riders. Here are some of the measures that Bolt provides through its app which makes it possible for Ugandans to enjoy safe, convenient and affordable ways of moving from one place to another.
Screening and Vetting Drivers
Bolt continually strives to ensure that the drivers that use their apps are extensively screened and vetted. This is to ensure riders are being transported by professional drivers.
Once a driver has applied to be boarded onto our platform, we take about two weeks cross-checking their background on databases for licensing and criminality. We also check if the driver has a professional driver’s permit and we also require them to present a criminal record police clearance certificate.
In addition to vetting the driver’s character, we ensure that the vehicle and/or motorcycle presented is roadworthy, and in very good conditions.
Through the use of our GPS tracking devices (GPS), the Bolt app monitors the activities of the drivers at all times. To prevent drivers from working while fatigued, we prompt them to go offline for about six hours after 12 hours of work. This ensures alertness on the road. We also continuously send alerts to drivers to maintain a safe speed during the ride.
Bolt also checks for change in route or unusual stops by drivers as a safety precaution. If a vehicle has been stationary on a trip for longer than 15 minutes, a push message is auto initiated and a ticket is sent to the safety team.
Riders also have the safety kit tool on their app which consolidates safety features in one location, and promotes safety features. This allows riders to share their Expected Time of Arrival (ETA) with their friends and family whilst on a trip.
The Bolt app allows the use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP),which is a technology that allows you to make voice calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line. This allows both drivers and riders to hide their phone numbers from both parties, when requesting for a ride. This prevents either parties from trying to reach each other after a ride is concluded, which at times leads to harassment.
Feedback from the customers
As a way to enhance safety, our application has an inbuilt feedback button that allows customers to rate the drivers, and report any mishaps that could have happened during the ride. This helps us to keep our drivers in-check and helps guarantee that they adhere to all the rules and regulations.
Customers are also able to see the identity of their driver. For example, standard features on the app include photos of drivers, their unique identification number and vehicle registration number for vehicles. This helps with identifying issues of impersonation or a driver arriving with a different car from what is on the app.
Technology has made it possible for trips to be tracked using GPS. Meanwhile, enroute, the passenger is able to monitor the trip using the app. In other markets like Kenya, our driver and rider apps both have an SOS emergency button that can be used to alert, and seek for security and/or first response medical assistance at any time during a Bolt trip. The SOS button is reserved for medical and security emergencies when a driver, a rider or another road user is in immediate danger, during a Bolt ride. Bolt is working to get partners to avail the SOS button option to the Ugandan market.
In conclusion, achieving safety on our roads is a continuous process that will be achieved successfully with the combined efforts of all relevant stakeholders involved.
The writer is the Operations Manager Bolt Uganda