Friday, March 01, 2013
Hail a NYC Taxicab on a Smartphone? Not Yet.
Considering that there is a smartphone application for just about everything these days, it is surprising that the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) did not approve a pilot program for electronic hail applications (e-hail program) until last December. However, the day before the pilot program was set to launch in NYC on February 13th, The Livery Roundtable and Black Car Assistance Corporation, among others, filed suit claiming that the program was improperly passed. The petition argued that the pilot program was invalid because the TLC failed to obtain City Council approval before starting a year long trial period for the e-hail program.
The e-hail app. would allow passengers using the application on their smartphones to identify available taxis in their area and/or hail a taxicab using the device. Alternatively, taxi drivers will be able to locate passengers in need of rides and/or receive electronic hails. Some companies with pre-existing e-hail applications such as Uber, GetTaxi, Hailo, and Flywheel were required to augment their pre-existing e-hail applications in order to conform to the TLC’s e-hail program regulations. Specifically, the TLC wanted to ensure that passengers and drivers used the application exclusively to hail, or accept hails, not bribe drivers with cash bonuses.
While the TLC was excited about the e-hail program and believed it would benefit both passengers and drivers, some companies lobbied against the program. Unsurprisingly, those in opposition of the e-hail program include the aforementioned petitioners Black Car Assistance Corporation and The Livery Roundtable, as well as other black car companies. The companies believe the e-hail system will generally hinder the livery business and negatively impact certain segments of the NYC population, specifically the elderly and the lower class. While this maybe true since yellow cab drivers and passengers will be easier to locate, there is nothing preventing black car companies from developing their own applications.
Nonetheless, the TLC and Mayor Michael Bloomberg remain unconcerned by the petitioners’ injunction and informed the public that the e-hail program was validly passed.
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