After relentless (and baffling) opposition, New York City has abruptly just given up and will actually let people hail taxis using their smartphones.
If you rarely use taxis, it’s a little surprising how dated and creaky the system of getting a cab actually is. Either you try and flag one, or you make a phone call for a cab that may or may not show up depending on how the driver is feeling and the competence of the dispatcher.
It seems to be the kind of situation an app would solve handily, but it’s been a rocky, complicated road. Uber, the start-up largely associated with “e-hailing,” essentially has a basic script it follows every time it enters a new market:
1) It announces you can use the service.
2) It gets dragged into court by the city government and/or a local taxicab operator who doesn’t appreciate having to compete.
3) The city government or taxi company loses miserably, and Uber goes on its merry way.
That’s pretty much exactly what’s happened in New York City:
The New York State Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) may proceed with the e-hail pilot program, which was approved at the TLC’s December 13, 2012 Commission meeting.
Today, the TLC approved the first pilot participant in this pilot program: Uber Technologies, Inc.
This 12-month pilot program, which commences today, will allow the TLC to test and evaluate smartphone e-hail apps that can be used to request medallion taxicab service.
This isn’t a blanket legalization: The city is testing to see whether this would cause a lack of cabs or leave senior citizens stuck on the street as cabs zip by to pick up fares they’ve already committed to.
Of course, this is a somewhat odd concern for a city champing at the bit to put a gigantic iPad on every street corner, but we suppose New York will always have its quirks.
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