New York to test 'e-hailing' of taxis

One-year trial begins in February of a method for using an app on smartphones to call a cab

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2012, 4:51am

New York passengers will be able to use smartphones to "e-hail" taxis from the kerb in a one- year test programme, according to the city's taxi and limousine commission.

The pilot programme, which begins on February 15, will allow people to attract the attention of a cab driver without having to whistle, wave their arms or shout at drivers in street traffic, a city tradition for decades.

Taxi apps are already in use in cities such as London, San Francisco and Boston, according to New York officials.

"We should not ignore technology that is out there," commission chairman David Yassky said.

"When you have technology that is already being used and benefiting passengers, regulations shouldn't stand in the way."

The apps would enable passengers to hail taxis within about 800 metres in Manhattan's business district, south of 59th Street, and within 2.4 kilometres in the rest of the city, Yassky said.

Drivers would be able to enable the calling system with a single touch of their hand-held device, he said.

The test would allow customers and drivers of New York's more than 13,000 cabs to get used to the apps and permit the commission to evaluate their usefulness, Yassky said.

The commission may decide to cancel the programme, make it permanent or order changes to suit its needs, he said.

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said drivers approved of the pilot plan, particularly because the commission would permit cabbies to decide which, if any, applications to use.

That would prevent the technology companies from charging exorbitant commissions on fares, she said.

"For the first time, we will be in the driver's seat, with no company forcing drivers to use any app," Desai said. "This will make sure that app companies don't undercut our wages by charging a fee on an e-hail."