- Last Updated: 3:27 PM, June 6, 2012
- Posted: 12:50 AM, June 6, 2012
New Yorkers may soon be able to flag down yellow cabs without having to lift an arm.
The Taxi & Limousine Commission is considering several proposals for apps — already popular in other cities — that would allow riders to digitally hail taxis with their smartphones.
The programs, if approved by the TLC, could revolutionize how passengers use yellow cabs.
At least two software developers will respond to the city’s request in March for a proposal to find ways for riders to pay by cellphone and to “find taxicabs available for service near their location.”
“It’s what we call digital hailing,” said Jing Wang Herman, CEO of GetTaxi USA, one of the companies that responded to the city’s request.
GetTaxi’s app — in use in the UK, Russia and Israel — just received $20 million in funding from billionaire Len Blavatnik for its New York City launch.
GetTaxi provides cab drivers with an in-car system, similar to a GPS unit, that tracks their vehicle’s movements.
When would-be riders press a button on the app on their smartphones, the system searches for a nearby available cab and alerts the driver. The cabby can then accept the trip or decline it.
If the fare is accepted, the passenger can watch in real time on the phone as the cab makes its way through traffic toward the agreed-on pickup spot.
A GetTaxi competitor, Hailo — which is hugely popular in London — operates a similar system.
“[The TLC] understands this is the next phase coming from cabs,” said Jay Bregman, the Hailo CEO.
TLC Deputy Commissioner Ashwini Chhabra said the agency is still deciding whether the apps would be approved for New York, since yellow cabs are currently prohibited from accepting any pre-arranged pickups.
Those rules specifically ban the use of two-way radios by cab drivers for the purpose of scheduling trips with potential fares.
But the creators of GetTaxi and Hailo argue that no dispatch system or radio is necessary for riders using their phones to find cabs — they would link up via the app.
The new technology could also help cab riders who are disabled.
In cities where Hailo operates, disabled riders can use it to search specifically for wheelchair-accessible vehicles nearby.
“People are saying, ‘App has changed my life,’” said Bregman.
New York City is currently being sued in federal court for not providing enough wheelchair-accessible cabs, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.