Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission adopted Thursday, by a vote of 7 to two abstentions, a year-long pilot program allowing taxi drivers and passengers to use taxi-hailing apps on their phones.
Smartphone hails will override street hails within a half mile in most of Manhattan, or a mile in a half in Northern Manhattan and the outer boros.
Current rules prohibit apps like Uber, Hailo and GetTaxi because drivers are forbidden from using devices while driving for safety reasons.
TLC rules also forbid payment through a third party system, which is how Uber processes transactions, taking a cut for itself and why the company stopped operating in yellow cabs.
Under the new rules to allow e-hail apps up for a vote, New York would require e-hail apps here to be a bit different from the ones operating in other cities already... albeit with lawsuits and political battles in many cases.
TLC commissioner commissioner David Yassky said Thursday the city risks falling behind. "We can look at other cities and see that passengers are using these products and benefiting from them, and when you have new technology that's available that can benefit passengers, regulations shouldn't stand in the way."
The apps would still not be allowed to process payments independently in NYC. They'll need to be integrated into the meter to prevent overcharging. In order to be approved under the proposed rules, apps would also need to be programmed so that a driver can't accept a ride while in motion -- that's possible using GPS data or even the accelerometer in a smartphone.
The non-yellow cab car service industry opposed the idea, fearing that it will pull yellow cabs out to places normally dominated by car services, which can be requested by phone call and apps currently. To mollify some of that fear, today's vote may not be on whether to permit e-hail apps in yellow cabs, but whether to run a one year pilot program.