Do we lack the means to improve our mass transport system?

There is hope for sure
by Tracy Carpena | Oct 8, 2013

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We\'ve seen cars evolve through the years. These vehicles continue to reap the benefits of research--getting more powerful, having more in-car entertainment and safety features, and becoming more fuel-efficient.

This evolution cannot be found in our local mass transportation system in the Philippines. E-jeepneys rolled out in Makati a few years ago. EV companies have expressed interest in producing e-tricycles, including Japan-based start-up BEET Philippine and Filipino company EMotors. But is this just how far we can go--a few e-jeepneys in Makati\'s CBD and a handful of e-tricycles that may soon conk out?

At an intimate roundtable discussion with BEET Philippine, the company revealed that it has partnered with telco giant Softbank Group, Japan\'s second largest company in terms of profit, next only to Toyota. While such a deal between a giant telco company and a start-up may not seem significant, the alliance actually opens new doors toward innovation.

As we reported earlier, the partners are working on integrating the advanced telecommunication system developed by Softbank into BEET\'s vehicle control unit (VCU) technology. With the system integration, BEET aims to introduce a new billing system for e-tricycles.

In a statement, BEET president and CEO Tokushi Nakashima said: \"Through this charging system, BEET can help drivers who could not avail of a bank\'s loan or lease programs.\" The billing system sounds strange, as the familiar payment schemes are bank loans or full cash payments for vehicles. The partners will introduce a new system that may work for regular tricycle drivers in the Philippines: Drivers are granted e-tricycles, and they are charged on a regular basis to pay for the unit they \"loaned\" sans the bank transaction and the bank\'s interest rates.

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BEET\'s Japanese executives further elaborated on the technologies they could bring to the three-wheeled vehicle. With an integrated telecommunication system, e-tricycles can \"talk\" with one another and relay important information to the drivers, like traffic situation and passenger demand at certain locations. A solar-panel company has also approached the Japan-based start-up, proposing solar panels to be installed on the e-tricycle\'s roof, thus making it solar-powered as well.

The lowly jeepneys and tricycles have room for innovation, too. But unlike state-of-the-art cars, these technological innovations targeted at our local mass transportation system won\'t see the light of day without government support. While car manufacturers\' R&D centers get their go-signals from their respective company executives, the rollout of a new mass transport system relies heavily on the government\'s legislation and strict implementation. And while careful urban planning is essential before we adopt new technology, our government seems to be going at a snail\'s pace. Issuance of license plates is delayed. The Alternative Fuel Vehicles Incentives Act hasn\'t even been passed into law.

Technology evangelists and engineers are trying their best to make the unthinkable possible. Investors are taking risks. We hope the government is also doing its job in improving mobility for every Filipino taxpayer who takes public transport.

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