Automotive > Connected Mobility Blog

The Problem with Partitions

by Roger Lanctot | 2月 24, 2021

For taxi and ride hailing operators to thrive in our post-pandemic world will require the widespread adoption of in-vehicle partitions.  The problem lies in regulatory authorities failing to require the installation of these partitions.  It’s complicated.

In the U.S., the Center for Disease Control COVID-19 guidelines address distancing, hand-washing, and masking in for-hire transportation environments.  They do not address partitioning.

Germany and The Netherlands recommend the use of in-vehicle partitions by taxi and ride hailing operators, but they do not require them. The U.K.’s Transport for London specifies standards for in-vehicle partitions and must approve any partition to be used in vehicles, but they neither recommend nor require them.

Therein lies the rub.

German and Dutch authorities do not enforce their partition suggestions-guidelines-requirements.  Transport for London, on the other hand, penalizes and punishes drivers that try to improvise their own partitions.  TfL is a kind of my-way-or-the-highway kind of regulator.

The net result of the TfL enforcement regime is that only Toyota vehicles have received approvals for specific COVID-19 partitions from companies such as DriverBubble and Fixico.  Such approvals for Mercedes are expected soon.  For hire operators outside of London do not require TfL approval for partition installation.

Actually requiring in-vehicle partitions for taxi, limousine, and ride hailing operators creates some onerous obligations one might not immediately anticipate.  Should a regulator such as Transport for London decide to require partitions, they will have to take the added steps of specifying the materials and installation processes necessary to equip those vehicles and may even be obliged to inspect those installations and enforce the regulation.

According to executives at Fixico in The Netherlands, which offers partitions and partition installation at multiple locations in Europe, partition approval considerations that have arisen in Germany and The Netherlands include ensuring that partitions:

  • can be installed without tools
  • are flexible and 70% transparent
  • create no sharp pieces in crashes
  • have no sharp edges or corners
  • are impact proof, do not splinter
  • do not interfere with seatbelts or door access

Fixico’s partitions are made of a suitable, acceptable polycarbonate – which has actually been in short supply in Europe throughout much of the pandemic.  Materials such as PVC or Plexiglas are not acceptable alternatives, according to the guidelines.

For hire operators and individual drivers have had to take matters into their own hands to have partitions installed.  Some have wisely recognized the presence of a partition as a competitive advantage – highlighting partition-equipped vehicles in their passenger apps.  Other operators have simply recognized the challenge of recruiting drivers and attracting passengers in a pandemic-infused operating environment without protection for both.

Fixico has built a respectable business around partition installation – on top of its existing repair logistics operations.  For some reason this embrace of in-vehicle partitions – which has also been adopted across much of Asia led by Didi Chuxing – has not crossed the pond from Europe to the U.S.  These videos (links below) demonstrate how it’s done by Fixico in Europe: - Fixico installations - Brussels installations - Amsterdam installations

It doesn’t have to be complicated.  The problem and the solution are quite clearly understood.  A driver and a passenger in a car during the current pandemic ought to be separated by a partition. Fixico and DriverBubble and their partners, such as HyreCar in the U.S., have taken on the partition installation challenge. It's a siimple, positive, necessary step toward establishing a safe operating environment for drivers and passengers.

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