A mobile app released earlier this month aims to connect yellow cab drivers with commuters who are looking for a ride by sharing their locations with one another.
The app was created by San Francisco-based company Uber and will also allow for automatic credit card payment for rides. Drivers are equipped with a smartphone loaded with the app, which tells a driver when they are the cab nearest a pickup location. The driver is given 15 seconds to respond to the request.
However, the app already faces some legal challenges. According to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, cab drivers are not authorized to use any electronic app.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission says cab owners must maintain accurate trip records, and accepting payments through an app not connected to the Taxi Passenger Enhancements Project jeopardizes the accuracy of the records.
“I think it’d make hailing taxis much easier,” Stern freshman Jason Shen said. “There’s no more need for me to wait around waving my hands in the air.”
In fact, taxis already have a system in place to facilitate the payment process. The Taxi Passenger Enhancements Program, which is used to provide a convenient payment method inside the taxis, is exclusive to Creative Mobile Technologies and Verifone. Meanwhile, Uber does not have access to this technology.
Some have criticized the Uber app as flawed, saying it puts passengers at risk of being overcharged.
Councilman James Vacca, chair of the New York City Council’s transportation committee, expressed concerns about whether the riders’ interests were at heart.
“I specifically want to know how passengers will be protected against overcharging… and how their safety will be assured if drivers are using mobile devices while driving,” Vacca said.
Cab drivers like Shahid Atkar also have mixed opinions.
“It sounds very convenient,” Atkar said. “There would be no worry for waiting for customers. But I get enough business everyday. I think it’s nice but not needed right now.”
Meanwhile, industry expert Edward Rogoff, a business professor at Baruch College, agrees that Uber is not in any position to use yellow cabs.
“Uber is absolutely wrong,” Rogoff said. “For now, the yellow cab system won’t change.”
But Rogoff is a proponent of technology being integrated into the system.
“The technology is great,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time before the technology catches up, and yellow cabs will lose their luster.”
According to Taxi and Limousine Commission chair David Yassky, the commission will be ready for that influx of technology.
“We intend to quickly begin a rulemaking process that will permit broader use of apps when these contracts expire in February,” Yassky said. “Time and again, New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has led the country in terms of putting new technology to work for riders, and we are eager to see products that allow taxi passengers to take advantage of the latest innovations.”
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Sept. 19 print edition. Akshay Suggula is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]