Kathleen Horan, Reporter, WNYC News
Kathleen Horan is a staff reporter for New York Public Radio, covering the neighborhood beat. She also reports 'Reset', an ongoing series documenting police-community relations in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
A taxi app competition sponsored by the city is heating up. The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) is accepting proposals for an app that will help passengers pay for their taxi trips with their smartphones.
"You could pre-load your credit card and pre-set the tip amount that you use and that way when you get in a taxi you click that app and you don't have to worry about swiping that credit card at the end", said TLC Commissioner David Yassky.
In addition to the convenience of not having to dig for a credit card before getting out of a cab and having a record of the receipt, at least two of the companies in the running also promise their technology will assist customers in locating a taxi.
One of the competitors, Jay Bregman, who is CEO of the company Hailo, said, “We want to help solve the inefficiencies in the taxi market.” The company already offers a popular taxi app in London. “Why go into the street when you can hail the cab from inside the house or the bar?” he added.
Radios and dispatchers are barred from use in yellow cabs but companies like Hailo said that there isn’t any need for a dispatcher with their app — it’s more like putting your technology in the air, instead of waving your arm in the air to hail a cab.
But some in the industry are against using gadgets to find cabs.
The Livery Roundtable, a group that represents over 300 livery bases in the city, said in a statement, “Digital hailing is just another sleight of hand by the TLC to masquerade its desire to de-reregulate ground transportation … Besides forcing the driver to text and drive — prearranged service is legally the exclusive right of the for-hire service sector.”
But TLC Commissioner Yassky said digital hailing isn’t necessarily their goal — it’s only a function they’re considering.
"App developers are welcome to give us other functions on top of payment … we'll see what comes in," said Yassky.
Another company keen on getting into the city’s taxi market is GetTaxi.
The company’s CEO, Jing Wang Herman, said they’d like to provide drivers with a dashboard-mounted box that will help them connect with customers. In addition to other functions, their app will help disabled customers find a wheelchair-accessible taxi.
Yassky said the number of winners in the app contest depends on the quality of the submissions.
The last day to submit entries is Thursday. Winners are expected to be announced this fall.