Edmonton cab company betting big on dashboard cameras
Company plans to install cameras in all 564 cabs within the next year
An Edmonton cab company plans to add video cameras to its entire fleet, a move it says will protect both drivers and customers.
Greater Edmonton Taxi Service Inc -- which owns Yellow Cab, Barrel Taxi and both Checker and Prestige Cabs — plans to install the cameras in all 564 of its cars within the next year.
It's a move welcomed by drivers. Eyob Kinade has been driving a cab in Edmonton for more than six years and had one of the new cameras installed last week.
He said the job is an unpredictable one and he never knows what kind of passenger he will end up with.
"Every day is new," he said. "You're going to have a new experience and meet new people."
Earlier this summer, a passenger was fired from his job after a Calgary cab's dashboard camera recorded him swearing at driver, before ripping off the camera and shoving it into the driver's chest. Just last week, another passenger in Calgary was charged following the recording of an alleged racist rant directed at her driver.
While most of Kinade's pick ups are pleasant, he said he's had his share of abusive customers.
Kinade, originally from Ethiopia, has been the target of insults and comments about both his race and religion. One passenger grilled him on his immigration status, and demanded to see his documentation before telling him to "go back to your country."
"Mine was not recorded … so nobody could see it was the same situation," he said.
Even more concerning has been the violence. Kinade has twice had passengers smash his front windshield with their fists. He said he had to pay for the first replacement himself, while his company picked up the second.
There's a danger even when nothing goes on in the cab. He said every Edmonton cabbie knows the story of Soner Yasa, who claimed to have been falsely accused of sexual assault by a group of passengers in 2009. After reviewing a video of the ride, police opted not to charge Yasa, who went on file a $240,000 lawsuit against the women.
Kinade said the camera on his dashboard keeps both the driver and the customer honest.
"It will tell what is happening at the specific time," he said.
Cameras worth the cost
The cameras cost about $500 each. Add in the cost of labour, and the whole plan will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Philip Strong, president of Greater Edmonton Taxi Service Inc.
But in the end, he said, it could end up saving money in disputes and insurance settlements.
"In insurance, everyone thinks the cabbie is always wrong. But most of the time, they're not," Strong said.
Cameras were already installed in the company's wheelchair-accessible vehicles, as is mandated by the city. He decided to install them in the rest of the fleet after seeing how they helped companies in Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa.
"It's a lot of money but we think it is worthwhile for our drivers and our customers."
Aside from making disputes easier to settle, Strong hopes the devices will also prevent problems, since "everyone behaves better on cameras."
The video is downloaded to disk and stored for 10 days, although the company can save specific footage longer. The video is handled by the company, not the driver.
Strong said about a dozen of his cabs are currently sporting cameras; the rest will be installed as new cars are added to the fleet.