Can Technology Redefine “Designated Driver”?

Posted on May 6, 2011 by LCT Magazine

With most of my friends partying to commemorate Cinco de Mayo (doing business as Cinco de Drinko) and bombing my phone with text messages about how lame I was for staying home and having an early night, I wondered how many of them were riding with a designated driver and how many planned to drive themselves home. In recent years I’ve seen a rise in the number of DUIs among people I know, and a concurrent (but unrelated) rise of the number of friends’ lives taken by drunk drivers. Each of these could have been prevented by a designated driver; the problem is no one wants to be DD.
Chauffeured transportation is an obvious solution to this problem, even for economically challenged under-30s.
However, most people find it a hassle (and extra expense) to find and book a ride, especially after they’ve tossed back a few. No one likes taxis but rides in them anyway because they’re cheaper and easier to get on-demand during the wee hours of the night. But on a recent pub crawl with Santa Monica, Calif.-based PUBLIC EXPOSURE LLC, I thought about how chauffeured transportation operators can compete in this market if they so choose. Many in my group had come from parts of Los Angeles that would cost just as much to reach by taxi as by a sedan, but of course they wouldn’t be able to hail a sedan with the ease of a taxi. Or would they?
With the rapid advancement of technology, an operator could create a custom company app that would allow clients to conveniently access personalized accounts, check fleet availability, and book reservations right from their smartphones or tablets. Since “on-demand” service is equated more with taxis than luxury ground transportation, one solution for operators is to pair this type of reservation app with AUTOMATED DISPATCH capabilities in order to handle these requests. Of course, it would be up to the operator and company protocol to decide a cut-off time for these types of reservations in order to provide enough prep time between the reservation and the trip. It can be a full-scale app, or simply a “Designated Driver” to let clients know they have that option. The app could even include a section designed solely to inform the client of the benefits of a chauffeured ride v. a taxi. Clients will appreciate your commitment to social responsibility and the knowledge that you care about their well-being.
The closest example to this type of app is the PINPOINT PICKUP iPhone application.
Many operators are adding or considering smaller sedans such as Toyota Camrys and Ford Fusions to their fleet, which can be deployed for pub pickups at a lower price point. At the recent pub crawl, I realized that the cost of taxi rides home for some of the guests would be equal to or even in excess of what they would pay for a chauffeured sedan; some would even find it a cheaper per-passenger cost if they rode together and split the bill.
Most companies already have a retail segment of their business that handles pub crawls, but applying the right technology can help make it much more efficient. It might even help save a life or two. — Michael Campos, LCT assistant editor
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