Today Cnet.com reported the end of a disorganized era for the famously difficult to use New York taxi industry. The city’s ‘Taxi and Limousine Commission voted today in favor of a one-year test program that would let people use the smartphone app’ called UberTaxi to hail a taxicab, changing the face of the seemingly haphazard system forever.
If the movies are anything to go by, successfully hailing a yellow cab in New York City takes ruthlessness, dedication and luck in equal measures. Even if you do manage to get the attention of a cabbie, your spoils may be stolen from under from nose by someone a little more desperate and a little less polite. Well this is all about to change. Technology start-up Uber had already been offering the app to call-to-order private car companies and offered it to the iconic yellow cab service but concerns were raised over the threat to un-booked cars that are prohibited to prearrange rides.
Regulations needed to be put in place and the system would have to be thoroughly tested to ensure that the livelihood of hailed cab drivers was not threatened by the move. For instance, passengers in the business district of Manhattan must be ‘within a half mile of a cab to hail it with an app. Elsewhere in the city, that distance increases to a mile and a half’ according to Wired.com. The app works by identifying your location, you then request a ride, the nearest taxi driver available is alerted and you watch your ride approaching on your smartphone screen map in real time. When your journey is over you can pay with the app as well. In theory this eliminates time and money wastage for idle drivers and will make the ‘shot in the dark’ hand-waving method a thing of the past.
Although the new e-hail app usage will be a test, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is confident that it will become a permanent fixture in he city, citing that Mayor Mike Bloomberg, himself a bit of a techie, ‘pushed for the changes’ as the ‘storied old industry needed to be reinvented for a digital age.’ UberTaxi is working just fine in Boston and Toronto but Uber has come under harsh criticism and even legal action in San Francisco and Chicago where cab drivers are claiming ‘unfair business practices.’ Time will tell whether the app will remain after the trial period, or in it’s current form.