Travel Pal, the mobile security for public passengers
Minster of Transport and Mining Robert Montague (second right), aswell as (from left) Assistant Commissioner of Police Gary McKenziefrom the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch; Wilard Hylton,managing director, Transport Authority; Michael McNaughton,group managing director, Amber Innovations; and Vernon Walters,information communicatons technology manager at the transport andmining ministry, go through the Travel Pal app after it was launched onMonday and the transport minstry on Maxfield Avenue in St Andrew.(Photo: Garfield Robinson)

A new mobile application geared towards protecting commuters who use public passenger vehicles is poised to revolutionise the sector, according stakeholders.

The app, named Travel Pal, cost the Jamaican Government under $3 million to develop and is a partnership between the Ministry of Transport and Mining, the Transport Authority, Amber Innovations, and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

Starting today, commuters will be able to download Travel Pal from Google's Play Store and Apple's App Store. It will allow people to input tracking and descriptive information on drivers and public passenger motor vehicles. They will then be able to forward this information to loved ones who will know who was transporting their relatives and friends, and in what vehicle.

According to Michael McNaughton, group managing director of Amber Innovations, the app is a step in the right direction, given the number of people who go missing each year.

“Each year, thousands of persons board taxis from point 'A' with the intention of getting to point 'B', but unfortunately, never arrive. We see the missing reports daily and we see the numerous alerts being activated, and we hear the stories of missing persons who made it out alive after having an unfortunate experience with criminal elements posing as taxi drivers,” McNaughton said at the launch of the app Monday at the Ministry of Transport and Mining in St Andrew.

“Two years ago we were approached by the Ministry of Transport to help with a solution to restore confidence in the public transportation industry, to help curtail growing incidents of criminal activities using public passenger vehicles, the problems commuters face in determining whether the authorised person is the actual person driving the car,” McNaughton explained.

He added that Amber is not only a developer of applications but is also playing its role in deploying solutions aimed at “taregting one of the ills of society, which is crime”.

Willard Hylton, managing director of the Transport Authority, said that heightened criminal activities that usually take place during this period was a motivator for launching the app five days before Christmas.

He said that as regulators in the transport sector, the Transport Authority sees safety as crucial.

“For so many years the lives of our people, especially those who are seen to be the most vulnerable in society — like our children, women, the elderly and the disabled — have been put at risk and have become targets for unscrupulous individuals whose mission is to cause mayhem. For this reason the Transport Authority has partnered with the Amber Group and the Jamaica Constabulary Force to ensure that our commuters are empowered and equipped with the right information, by connecting them to the requisite tools that will help them to make wise choices in the selection of licensed passenger vehicles,” Hylton said.

“The invention of the Travel Pal application gives commuters instant access to a high-tech travel assistant right at their fingertips. We believe the app will revolutionalise the transportation sector to one that is reliable, orderly and also safe. I invite members of the public to go to the Google Play Store, download the app and use it during this Christmas season when criminal activities tend to heighten. We urge everyone to adapt safe practices and be very vigilant as we travel in the public domain,” Hylton said.

President of Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services, Edgeton Newman described the technology as awesome and encouraged commuters to download and use the app.

“This is a major instrument in the safety of our commuters. Without this, we are a long way from addressing our problems. People see the taxi as the worst instrument in terms of taking them from point A to point B. All you have to do is input the licence plate number and send the message to at least two persons. You will ride more comfortable. It is for the commuters' benefit to use the app,” he said.

The Travel Pal app will allow passengers to input trackingand descriptive information on drivers and public passengermotor vehicles and then forward this information to lovedones who will know who was transporting their relativesand friends, and in what vehicle.
A screen grab of the Travel Pal app

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