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New device to catch cheating matatu drivers

By | October 21st 2009 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By Victor Mukele

Traffic Police seem unable to tame rampant matatu mischief. But three men in Nakuru think they can help catch drivers who cheat on speed governors.

The technicians have devised a speed governor they claim is harder to tamper with.

The team of mechanics, who say they have spent the last five years perfecting the technology, use the mobile phone technology to relay signals that control the gadget.

Main picture and inset, Geoffrey Muturi demonstrates how the device works.

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Mr Geoffrey Muturi, Mr Geoffrey Njehia and Mr George Kuria say their innovation can beat all tricks employed by matatu operators to tamper with speed governors.

The innovation has also styled to punish rogue drivers who try to tamper with them.

The gadget is fitted with a mobile phone SIM card that communicates automatically with its system once a certain speed is reached by a vehicle.

If, for instance, the vehicle exceeds the pre-set 80 kilometres per hour speed, the gadget is wired to switch off the engine automatically.

After switching off, it cannot restart until a pre-timed duration lapses.

In the meantime, the gadget sends a short text message to the vehicle owner’s phone alerting them that it had been over speeding and has switched off. It confirms the time and place where the vehicle was speeding.

Speed limit

A road test to demonstrate how the gadget works produced the results as the manufacturers had explained.

As the vehicle that was fitted with the device exceeded the 80kph speed limit the engine went off automatically.

The mechanics and the media team waited for an hour that the manufacturers call ‘punishment duration’ for over speeding.

Muturi says the innovation is flexible as it allows one to adjust the speed limit and the ‘punishment duration’.

If the device is tampered with, the vehicle will not start since it is part of the car’s starter circuit.

Muturi says the innovation, if adopted by the Transport Licensing Board, can help reduce cheating on speed governors.

"For example, if the TLB oversees the fitting of all speed governors on matatus with this device, it can develop a database with all information of the vehicles and monitor their movement automatically," adds Njehia.

"You don’t need a camera or a police speed gun to know a vehicle is speeding, the gadget relays information to your phone. It can also be connected to relay information to a computer online," says Njehia.

Kuria says all messages from the device can be directed to a central database confirming the cars that have been speeding.

Smooth journey

It has not been a smooth journey for the trio as they have met challenges while trying to perfect their invention, they said.

A message the device has relayed to a mobile phone. Photos: Boniface Thuku/Standard

Despite their creativity, they say one challenge has been acceptance by the people of Nakuru where they make the gadgets.

"They take time to understand and believe what we are doing," says Kuria.

"On many occasions I have been called to Nairobi to fit the gadget only to find that the customer is from Nakuru and had travelled to Nairobi while we can fix it at cheaper rate here in Nakuru," adds Muturi.

The trio did not disclose how much it costs to fit the gadget saying they are still in the trial phase.

Trademarks

Muturi says Kenyan consumers have no faith in locally made goods preferring to stick to the trademarks from Asia and Europe.

"There are a lot of innovations in Kenya but the has not yet acknowledged them," adds Kuria.

The technology they have employed has been pioneered in European and Asian countries to automatically time devices like fridges and electric appliances.

Njehia says public transport operators have devised means to beat the speed governor making it difficult to tame over speeding on Kenyan roads.

He says drivers get away with over speeding since most of their cars are fixed with a micro switch for immobilising speed governors whenever they want.

"If you have noticed, most matatus over speed but when an inspection is carried out, the gadgets are found to be in place," adds Kuria.

Kuria adds that the switch which is readily available and at a cheap cost, is hard to trace in a vehicle, beating police efforts to curb cheating.

Their new gadget, which works like a cut-out when switched on reacts to the continuous flow of current of electric current and switches off when interfered with.


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