General information about the GPS Subcommittee
The measurement of distance to calculate charges for taxi fares has traditionally been accomplished through mechanical means (rotation of the vehicle's transmission components or the vehicle's wheels). While most modern day taximeters continue to use these mechanical-based mechanisms for distance measurement, there have been some indications that the utilization of global positioning satellites (GPS) to determine distances between locations may be developed as a source for commercial distance measurements. Additionally, in conjunction with the GPS measurement of distances, a number of software applications that are available for installation on personally-owned devices such as cellular telephones are being used to request transportation from providers.
The appearance of this type of service using GPS and cellular telephone technology has resulted in the need for the development of regulatory standards to verify that this type of technology is providing correct data for use in commercial transactions. Regulatory officials in the United States have routinely evaluated taximeters for many years using procedures established in NIST Handbook 44; however, this standard does not yet address types of devices that use the GPS system to determine distance and or time. Due to notable differences in the way that distances are determined using traditional mechanisms and the GPS system, the existing standards now being used by regulatory officials will need to be updated and amended so that these policies and practices can be applied to the more recent technological advances.
In response to these needs, the USNWG formed the GPS Subcommittee to address the specific concerns related to these issues. This Subcommittee would be responsible for the initial development of specification and user requirements, tolerances, and test procedures needed for the evaluation of commercial devices that employ GPS as a source for distance measurement.
The following points represent a brief summarization of the activities leading to the development of proposed standards for transportation network measurement systems and updated standards for taximeters. Details of USNWG on Taximeters meetings may be found in the meeting summaries by clicking on 'Archive Meeting Summaries'.
- August 2011: A small group of five individuals met in Sacramento, CA to develop initial recommendations for an update of the NIST Handbook 44 Taximeters Code (Section 5.54.) These suggested changes represented amendments that were considered necessary due to advances in the technologies being used in the taxi industry since the previous revision of this code. The group’s recommendations were circulated to individuals and companies that had been identified as stakeholders. Comments were solicited, none were received.
- September 2011 - May 2012: The U.S. National Work Group (USNWG) on Taximeters was formed by NIST by posting notifications in the Federal Register, the Weights and Measures Director’s list server, and direct contact of stakeholders.
- May 2012: A web-meeting of USNWG was held to establish and present that group’s mission, scope, and work plan to members. There was no published agenda or meeting summary for this initial conference.
- September 2012: A face-to-face meeting of USNWG was held in at NIST’s Gaithersburg, MD facilities. During this 2-day meeting, the changes to the Handbook 44 (HB44) Taximeters Code generated from the meeting in August 2011 were reviewed and discussed.
- Also during this meeting, the USNWG members considered recent reports from various field officials regarding the use of systems incorporating Global Positioning Service) GPS and software applications (apps) to determine distance traveled and to calculate fares.
- To address these types of systems specifically, USNWG members agreed to the formation of a Subcommittee from within the work group.
- A portion of this meeting was devoted to a presentation by Michael Lombardi (NIST Time and Frequency Division) providing information on the use of, and the capabilities of GPS.
- September 2012-October 2014: The USNWG continued to work via web-meetings on the revision of HB44 5.54. Several proposed changes were submitted as changes to HB44 as items to be voted on in July 2015. These proposed changes were eventually adopted by the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM).
- May 2013-May 2014: The GPS Subcommittee had convened a meeting via teleconference and through an exchange of emails. This first meeting outlined the scope and work plan of the subcommittee. Shortly after the first meeting of the subcommittee was held, the subcommittee chair position was vacated. The loss of the subcommittee’s chair and the lack of a replacement stalled the work of the subcommittee for the following year.
- May 2014-November 2014: NIST Office of Weights and Measures (OWM) was able to obtain authorization for, and to create a paid contractual position to fill the vacant chair of the GPS Subcommittee. During this same period, several attempts were made by NIST OWM and the incoming subcommittee chair to solicit participation in the subcommittee by transportation network companies (Lyft, Uber, Sidecar). These solicitations were not successful and the subcommittee was unable to gain the support and participation of those companies that were contacted.
- November 2014: To revitalize the subcommittee’s efforts a web-meeting was convened. Since the subcommittee’s membership had undergone a major transformation, this meeting’s agenda focused on the orientation of new members that had recently joined the group.
- November 2014-September 2015: The USNWG continued its work by convening three web-meetings and submitting several additional proposals for HB44 changes. A face-to-face meeting of the USNWG was held in July 2015 held in connection with the NCWM Annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA.
- This meeting represented the first occasion in which a transportation network company (TNC) - Uber actively participated in one of the work group’s meetings. Representatives from Uber had passively participated in the previous 2-3 web-meetings of the USNWG.
- Also in July 2015, the GPS Subcommittee convened a meeting following the USNWG conference. During this subcommittee meeting, much of the discussion centered on determining whether standards/regulation for the TNC’s product: Transportation Network Systems (TNS) should be included as part of the existing HB44 Taximeters Code or whether there should be a new separate code for TNS.
- July 2015-October 2015: Following the face-to-face meetings in July 2015, NIST OWM elected to close the contractual position of the GPS Subcommittee Chair in an effort to boost momentum and the progress being made in this area. It was decided that the NIST OWM staff would serve not only as technical advisor but also as chair.
- September 2015: California Division of Measurement Standards drafted and submitted a proposal to the NCWM for establishing a new separate code for TNS.
- October 2015: A face-to-face GPS Subcommittee meeting was conducted in Sacramento, CA. With NIST OWM chairing the meeting, the subcommittee again debated whether there should be separate codes for TNS and Taximeters. A second TNC; Lyft joined the group during this meeting. The proposal that California Division of Measurement Standards submitted for a new TNS Code was reviewed by the subcommittee. Many of the existing taximeters code requirements were also addressed at this meeting due to the predicted effect of a new TNS Code. The subcommittee generally agreed to pursue the development of a separate code for TNS.
- January 2016: Another meeting of the GPS Subcommittee was held in conjunction with the NCWM Interim meeting in San Diego, CA. The subcommittee reviewed and worked on refining the TNMS Code drafted initially by CA DMS.
- January 2016-March 2016: NIST OWM, determined that the suggestions made by TNC’s (Uber & Lyft) to accelerate progress of the work group had merit and announced that it would change its strategy. This action involved the dissolution of the GPS Subcommittee and turning that specific work (developing a TNMS Code) over to a small task group. Ms. Kristin Macey of the California Division of Measurement Standards volunteered to serve as chair of the task group.