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Hackers spread misery among taxi drivers

Russian taxi drivers hack

Taxi drivers and taxi companies are turning to technology more to offer a smoother ride for passengers looking to book a cab.

Booking and payment apps make it easy to connect passengers to the nearest public hire or private hire taxi available to complete the journey.

As well as making payments simpler, it also allows drivers to pinpoint exactly where passengers are and lets passengers know how far away their taxi is. It makes the whole process easier for drivers and passengers and helps keep everyone safe.

And technology such as this will continue to play a big part in the taxi industry, whether it is little improvements to existing operations, or someone develops a game-changing idea. But as drivers and passengers become more dependent on it, there are concerns about what happens when the technology fails and things go wrong. Taxi insurance will cover most eventualities and help get public hire or private hire taxis back on the road.

But, in the worst-case scenario, what happens when hackers attack the system and are free to cause untold havoc? In Russia last month, hackers brought downtown Moscow to a standstill by breaching the Yandex Taxi app and ordering every available taxi to the same street at the same time.

The resulting chaos led to the city centre being gridlocked as taxi drivers and other road users tried to get out of the area.

As a protest idea, it is easy for people to see the lighter side of it. But for the taxi drivers caught up in it, they have not only lost out on fares for journeys which did not take place, they have missed out on genuine fares while they were caught up in the traffic jam. Stunts like this also put people at risk as taxi drivers, delivery drivers and commuters all tried to find a way out of the gridlock.

Yandex Taxi has said it has updated security to its app to prevent future attacks.

But concerns have been raised because Yandex operates in more than 1,000 cities across Russia and other countries, and is investing heavily in self-driving technology, leading people to fear a more sinister outcome if hackers were ever able to take control of driverless taxis.

People have the right to protest and it can be infuriating being stuck in traffic because of road closures and the sort of disruption groups such as Extinction Rebellion caused in the UK over the past year.

But the thought of being left powerless in an automatic vehicle being controlled by someone else brings a more sinister note to it. And with the potential for lives to be put at risk, there are fears hackers could bring towns and cities to their knees by hijacking the technology.

So, as technology for both automated vehicles and the software used to book taxis continues to improve, safety and security will have to be at the heart of it.

Even if it is a software glitch rather than cyber criminals attacking systems, issues with technology can cause major problems.

This summer, traffic in San Francisco came to a standstill when driverless taxis being tested in a pilot scheme, came to a stop at a busy junction in the city. A software bug was blamed for the incident. Traffic was blocked for several hours and the vehicles had to be towed away.

Passenger safety and comfort are at the heart of the taxi industry and will have to remain the focus as we become ever more dependent on technology.

All information is correct at time of publication. Information provided within this article may have changed over time. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by John Patons Insurance Services or any of its employees.