Early tech adopters will soon have a distinct advantage in the eternal struggle to hail a taxi. Today, the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a one-year pilot program that will allow the use of smartphone apps like Uber and Hailo to summon a yellow cab, with some restrictions, by a vote of 7-0 (with two abstentions). TLC chairman David Yassky called the technology "inevitable" and announced, "It is real, today." He added, "We should not ignore technology that's out there."
According to the agreement, the long ban on prearranged taxi rides will be lifted for cabs within a half-mile of the e-hail in Manhattan below 59th Street and within a one-and-a-half-mile radius anywhere else. Passengers will be required to pay using only the standard methods, not through the services themselves, and drivers cannot receive incentives to pick up tech-savvy riders.
When the app Uber attempted to bypass the TLC powers that be with a New York City pilot program of its own, it was forced to "take a very expensive bath" and back down. In a celebratory blog post this afternoon, the company saluted the decision to let them try again. "Today, New York City's government overcame its own reticence and overwhelmingly passed a plan to bring the nation's largest taxi market into the 21st century," wrote CEO Travis Kalanick, adding with some quintessential start-up cockiness, "We already know how this pilot will turn out." We'll see.