t has been reported that Google is testing a new Google Maps safety feature that will warn passengers when a taxi/PH driver deviates from its route. 

The feature that is currently being tested in India, but expected to be rolled out internationally, will alert the passenger if your car or taxi deviates from its route by more than 500 meters (0.3 miles).  The deviation will be based on the use of Google Maps by the taxi/PH driver. 

The new “off-route alerts” will be accessible from within the new stay safer” menu that will be accessible after selecting your destination but before you enter navigation mode. 

Clearly this is a feature aimed at protecting the public but it may also cause licensed drivers unnecessary difficulties.  The fact is that technology does not keep up with real life.  An obvious example of this is road closures and diversions that can happen without notice.  In these cases it may be that Google’s new feature will alert passengers (and potentially cause anxiety) unnecessarily. 

Whilst there is a requirement on taxi drivers not to unnecessarily prolong journeys, there may be several ways to get to a destination.  Provided the way chosen by the taxi drivers is not unreasonably prolonged, they could take a direction that Google Maps may not agree with and this too may cause an alert to the passenger. 

Whilst the idea is good, the application may cause difficulties for drivers who will need to be careful how they manage this.  

Stephen McCaffrey

Regulatory defence barrister specialising in taxi and private hire licensing law, appeals and defence.

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