There is a lot of change going on with New York City's yellow taxis this year. We got a 17 percent fare hike yesterday, that new streamlined branding two weeks ago, new taxi lights coming soon, a new Starbucks-approved payment method being tested and that's not even all! If a few companies get their way you could soon be legitimately hailing your cab with a smartphone—who cares if that could create a "two-tiered taxi system" for the smartphone-haves and the smartphone-have nots.
San Francisco-based company Uber is trying to be the first company to bring a phone-based hailing-and-paying app to the New York City market (before competitors like Hailio get to market). But the company has a few kinks to work out first—so it is offering free rides up to $25 on its 105 affiliated cabs this week!
So what are the kinks for Uber? Depends on who you ask. The Times reports that an analysis conducted by the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade found 11 potential taxi violations in Uber's model—which range from automatically tipping to not allowing for cash payments to forcing cabs to turn away fares while on duty. But in an interview with Betabeat, Uber's CEO says the real problem is that the company's payment may compete with a TLC exclusivity clause with Verifone that won't expire until February. The rest of the problems he seems unworried with (they can add tip options, and "By the end of the week, the maximum distance is going to be less than half a mile" which he says will be like losing a cab to a person across the street).
Will the system work and be a success? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, FREE TAXI RIDES (on 105 of the city's yellow cabs), people! And though councilman James Vacca is worried that you have to have a smartphone to use the service, you don't actually: SMS works just fine, in theory.