Emilio GuemezThe U.S. State Department is warning travelers of robberies and assaults on taxi passengers in Mexico.
Thanks to Emilio Guemez, a Carnegie Mellon University alumnus, visitors and citizens now have a potentially life-saving tool.
Enter Taxiaviso — an app Guemez created that targets this security challenge.
"Taxis in Mexico have a very bad reputation," said Guemez. "The problem is that differentiating bad taxis from good ones is quite tricky. Unofficial cabs pose to be real and, at times, look identical to their official counterparts."
Among Taxiaviso's features: the ability to identify official taxi stands in the user's vicinity and verify license plates using an official database.
It also connects users to social networks like Twitter and Facebook, where they can submit and read reviews.
Its virtual taximeter allows users to see planned routes and their costs, based on official rates.
And there is also an emergency button, which notifies friends of the exact location and license plate of the taxi at the time of the emergency.
Soon, a call center will be added to transfer emergency calls to the police.
Taxiaviso is available through Apple's App Store and the Android Market, with Blackberry and simple SMS-based versions on the way.
A resident of Mexico City, Guemez graduated with a master of science and information technology in e-business degree in 2008.
"Carnegie Mellon's MSIT program helped me to develop the skills and mindset that were necessary for taking my idea and turning it into a finished product," he said.
In Mobile Commerce, which Guemez regards as his favorite class, he recalls his professors emphasizing flexibility as a key trait for professionals in the IT field and e-business.
"The MSIT program focused on problem-solving through a combination of diverse skills and approaches," he said. "Working on Taxiaviso, I resorted to those same problem-solving techniques many times."
Guemez and the app have received much media attention. El Universal, the most read newspaper in Mexico, hailed that "taxis are now in the sight of social networks."