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NYC: No Taxi Hailing, Payment Apps For You

After Uber released a mobile app that aims to help passengers and drivers locate one another, New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission quickly told taxi drivers to steer clear of such apps.

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission this week was quick to remind taxi and livery drivers that they aren't allowed to use electronic hailing or payment applications. The public notice was issued after Uber released an application that could be used by both passengers and drivers to locate one another.

Uber's application predicts to taxi drivers areas where there is a high demand for taxi rides. The app can signal the driver closest to a ride request so that he/she may respond to the request and pick up the passenger. The Taxi and Limousine Commission says this is a no-no.

"A driver must not use any electronic communication device, including a cell phone or smartphone running a hail or payment app while operating a taxicab," said the Commission, which also pointed out that penalties include fines and possible suspension/revocation of the driver's TLC license.

Uber was taken aback by the TLC's notice.

[ Apple and Google are developing smartphone technology that delivers information before you even know you need it. Read more at Siri And Rivals Prep Next Trick: Mind Reading. ]

"We feel like the TLC has for the most part been friendly, until we got this," said Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in an interview with the New York Times.

Why the pushback? Contractual obligations, says the TLC. Existing contracts the TLC has with fare payment processors prohibits the use of apps to pay taxi and livery fares. The contract is set to expire in February. The TLC is, however, looking at ways to improve hailing and paying for taxis.

The TLC submitted a request for proposal in March of this year. According to the RFP, the TLC wants "a software developer that will create a smartphone application for use in for-hire vehicles. In the past, developers have created stand-alone apps without coordination with service providers or regulators. The TLC aims to take a new approach by contracting with a developer to create an app with one or more functions that would enhance the city's for-hire vehicle services and improve both customer and driver experiences."

A quick search of both the iPhone App Store and Google Play Store showed that dozens--if not hundreds--of taxi hailing applications are already available to smartphone users. As long as you're not in New York City, feel free to try one.

"The TLC is eager to pave the way for taxi riders to take advantage of the most up-to-date technology, including smartphone apps that may help passengers locate available taxicabs more quickly," said TLC chairman David S. Yassky.

This doesn't mean it isn't possible to make electronic payments in NYC taxi cabs. Many of the city's taxis accept credit cards for fare payment, which are generally used with a terminal located in the back seat of the taxi. Smartphone apps could make things easier, especially if they are matched with payment terminals that accept NFC (near-field communications)-style payments. But things haven't progressed quite that far.

The TLC hasn't provided any updates on the RFPs it has received.

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User Rank: Apprentice
1/25/2014 | 12:29:24 AM
NYC: No Taxi Hailing, Payment Apps For You
Feels like the Taxi commission's payment obtains a bit from every little thing offered throughout the latest settlement and also doesn't want to discuss. Feels like another Govt monopoly creating life more difficult about the average person simply just seeking a cab and also to pay for it effortlessly.

Adora from Gates-Cole Insurance
User Rank: Apprentice
9/15/2012 | 9:49:16 PM
re: NYC: No Taxi Hailing, Payment Apps For You
Do you know that this is not about Uber's traditional service operating in NY (which they already do) but rather a NEW service where they use their app to connect passengers to licensed TAXICABS (as opposed to limousines/sedans). Your article doesn't make that clear. You've lumped this in with the fights in DC, SF, and Massachusetts while ignoring the fact that those issues were distinct (as limos and taxis are regulated much differently). Also, why do you keep saying that the "taxi lobby" was forcing the DC council to place a price floor in place? I read in DCist that the "Uber lobby" negotiated that price floor with the Chair of the transportation Committee, not the taxi lobby. Please clarify.

- Drew Mack from http://www.newyorkmotorinsuran...
User Rank: Ninja
9/10/2012 | 5:23:11 AM
re: NYC: No Taxi Hailing, Payment Apps For You
Progressive cities can be rather hilariously the furthest behind, whether you're trying to buy a soda, pump gasoline, hire a plumber, or get a ride...
Terabyte Net
Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/10/2012 | 4:22:05 AM
re: NYC: No Taxi Hailing, Payment Apps For You
Sounds like the Taxi commission gets a piece of the pie from everything sold through the current payment processor and doesn't want to share. Sounds like yet another government monopoly making life harder on the average person just wanting a cab and to pay for it easily.
Andrew Hornback
Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/8/2012 | 9:43:55 PM
re: NYC: No Taxi Hailing, Payment Apps For You
NYC taxis (using taxi for all of the famous yellow ones, not necessarily the black/livery cars) now have to take payment cards - that's been a requirement for a couple of years now.

They all should also have a touch screen information system in the back where you can watch the route that the driver's taking or, even more annoyingly, canned content from the local NBC affiliate which is usually playing too loudly.

Also, I tend to recall that all NYC taxis have GPS onboard. Some have even been demoing mobile WiFi hotspots.

Seems like Commissioner Yassky would wake up to the idea that these sorts of apps need to be put out there as it would help with emissions since taxi operators would be more directed towards fares as opposed to cruising around aimlessly looking for them.

Of course, given what the Taxi of Tomorrow (look it up) looks like, I'd almost rather walk. It'll be a shame to see the streets of the city being roamed by cabs from a French company. Although the one from the Turkish company that was in the running didn't look much better - but at least they were going to be built in Brooklyn. Bring back the Checker Marathons!

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
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