One of the most common pieces of feedback the CanGo team receives when talking about making motorcycle taxi trips safer is if it is even possible. At the end of the day, so the thinking goes, a customer is being asked to be exposed on the back of a motorcycle: vulnerable to every other driver on the road, the very bottom of the vehicular pecking order.

Our response at CanGo is while we may never be able to guarantee 100% safety, we can do meaningful work towards increased safety. After all, car accidents happen everyday all over the world, but that doesn’t mean that ABS breaks, seatbelts and airbags haven’t had a transformative impact on decreasing the risk of car travel. We believe we can have a similar impact on motorcycle taxis.

What’s both a problem and an opportunity is that in Kinshasa, where the core of our current operations are, there are so many dangers to be aware of. Hospitals don’t have ambulances, assertive drivers treat intersections as a game of chicken, drivers are at risk of robbery from customers, customers are at risk of robbers / kidnapping from drivers and there are a worrying number of motorcycle taxi drivers that start the day at the bar.

CanGo’s launch value proposition in Kinshasa is: customers can get drivers who have helmets, aren’t drunk and won’t kidnap anyone. These are low hanging fruits that currently are not available in the city.

However this is just the starting point to making trips safer and more secure. There are several additional strategies we perform for increased safety and security:

  • User reviews: One of the great things about an app experience is that customers can directly review drivers, and drivers can directly review customers. This gives a layer of accountability, it also gives easy data for direct action. A message like “this driver drives like a maniac” is easily the most useful data in the company.
  • Smartphone sensor telematic data: In every smartphone there are gyroscopes, GPS and accelerometers. We integrate real time driver smartphone data with insurance industry telematic APIs so that we get risk scores on how drivers drive. The primary data in point is hard breaking, but the data has been surprisingly effective with trips customers flag manually for safety concerns having a strong correlation with telematic data. We communicate this telematic data to drivers in the app so that they can educate themselves, while we also take drivers off the CanGo system who have persistently low scores.
  • Working with drivers with experience: We require at least two years of prior expereince as motorcycle taxi drivers from our fleet pilots (our internal name for drivers) with the logic that by the time a driver has a certain number of kilometers under his belt he’s mastered the ballet of Kinshasa traffic.
  • Voice recognition for identity verification: This allows pilots and passengers to have a high degree of certainty that they know who they’re dealing with and that the person they are paired with is the real CanGo pilot or passenger.
  • Shared information between pilot and passenger: Sadly robbery is a key challenge for both pilots and passengers, but with both sides being able to see key data like name, photo, number of trips taken with the system and voice recognition of identity it adds an additional layer of trust.
  • Safety in numbers: Night time is dangerous for pilots and passengers, there’s no getting around that. However as easy hack to this is safety in numbers, where CanGo requires a minimum order of two drivers from 8pm to 6am so that there is never a time when a solo driver or single bike could be attacked.

We are proud of being able to provide options that increase safety, but know we’re just at the tip of the iceberg. If you have any ideas of additional ways to make motorcycle taxi trips safer feel free to share with me at [email protected] We love simple clever solutions that can have an immediate impact but are open to any and all ideas, we’re not trying to take credit or have a monopoly on innovation, we just want pilots and passengers to feel that going to the supermarket isn’t necesarily putting their life at risk.

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