Smartphones May Help You Hail NYC Cabs

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A taxi is hailed using a smartphone app

You may soon be able to hail a New York City taxi by using a smartphone app– no more whistling or waving down a yellow car. The industry has its concerns about that idea, however. (Richard Perry photo courtesy The New York Times.)

Looks like you may not have to perfect your whistle to successfully hail a cab on-the-fly in New York City. Smartphones may be allowed to help riders summon a taxi if a pilot program being considered by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission is a success.

In an interview with the New York Times’ Wheels blog, Commission Chairman David S. Yassky said, “Bringing apps into New York would be a change in the way people get taxis. It makes sense to see how that pans out and see if any of the supposed problems with that materialize before you make it permanent.”

Among those “problems” the Commission is looking at: The possibility that taxis may travel across town, bypassing ride-seekers on the street on their way to a smartphone summoner. The solution may lie in limiting the geographic reach of a taxi request sent from a smartphone to just a small area surrounding the person seeking a ride, the article said.

The article also pointed out the NYC taxi industry has had a “long-standing ban on prearranged rides in yellow taxis.” That ban was presumably intended, in part, to protect the other half of the TLC’s purview: livery and limousine operators who rely on prearranged pick-ups for their business. One livery and limousine service owner quoted in the article suggested perhaps the Commission should adopt a pilot program that would allow his so-called “black cars” to perform hailed fares just like yellow taxis.

A startup company called Uber has tried this approach recently in Chicago, though it faced opposition from the established taxi and livery services there.

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  • Brett

    I know an NYC hack and it is a brutal gig. 12 hour shift of straight driving, one pee break, and scary people. His ride is a Camry hybrid that never gets turned off (he does a 12 hour shift, and then it gets handed off to the next driver 12 hours later). Its lucky when it gets an oil change.
    He really hopes this tech will take off to make life just a bit easier.