John Lauer talked to the IT manager of a real taxi company in Arlington, Virginia [http://www.redtopcab.com]. The following is information from the conversation that might be helpful to our project.
Their dispatch system is completely automated and requires no human intervention when assigning cabs to customers. At peak business hours, they will have up to 10 reservation agents taking phone calls. The reservation agents just answer the phone and input the customer information. Customer information is held for 60 days. If they have a repeat customer, the address information is automatically filled in based on the phone number, and the reservation agent just verifies that this is correct.
They receive about 2,000 calls per day. Peak hours are in the range of 250-300 calls per hour.
They run SQL on a Unix box, but he mentioned that there is no standard in the cab industry.
Cab Console, Zone and GPS
Drivers do not need to call in. When they begin work, they use their console to let the dispatch system know that they are available to take rides. Although he said that some companies have a GPS system, at Red Top, the drivers just enter their current zone number manually into the console. They are then put into the queue for that zone. Rides are assigned strictly by queue according to the zone. There is no one who controls the location of cabs. Cab drivers can use their console to find the number of cabs in a queue for any zone. They can then decide if they want to queue in the current zone or drive over to another zone that has a shorter queue.
Picking Up Customers
In the event that the cab is hailed (no reservation), when the driver turns on the meter, the cab is automatically taken out of the queue.
For a customer reservation that comes automatically from the dispatch system, the cab in the queue just sees the address of the pick-up. If the cab accepts the ride, then the location of the destination is displayed.
Customer and ride information data is periodically purged from the system.
It seems that our use cases are pretty much in line with this real-world company. I thought the most interesting insights were the call volume, zone balancing (by giving drivers visibility to the number of cabs in the queue of any zone), and complete lack of human intervention in assigning cabs.