It's been completely legal to develop a ride-hail app for yellow cabs since the spring of 2013. First Uber stepped in with UberT, then Hailo stepped in to challenge it. Still, only five taxi apps have managed to get TLC approval in the years since, and even Hailo, the most promising, shrugged and gave up on NYC last fall.
Now Arro, a new app participating in the TLC's e-hail pilot program, is hoping to make the experience of summoning a yellow or green cab as similar to calling an Uber as possible, minus the surge pricing. Crain's reports that when a potential rider opens Arro, a nearby cab driver will get the rider's name, address, and cross street. In turn, the rider gets the driver's name and the cab's ID number. The app's aerial map, dotted with little yellow cab icons, looks very familiar.
Just like Uber, credit card information is loaded in the app, and tip is included. Unlike Uber, "It's always just the price on the meter," Mike Epley of Arro told the news outlet.
Arro has partnered with Creative Mobile Technologies, the Long Island City-based company that manages TV screens and payment systems in about half of the city's 20,000 green and yellow cabs. The app will only launch in these cabs, where rider alerts will be sent to screens mounted at the cab driver's eye level.
But in order to take over the other half of the cabs in NYC and Fully Disrupt The Industry, Arro will have to make a deal with VeriFone Systems, which controls the other half of the greens and yellows. (A deal with VeriFone is reportedly in the works.)
Currently beta-testing in 7,000 cabs, Arro is set to officially launch in a few weeks. We asked Uber if they had any thoughts on the matter, and the ride-sharing app valued at $50 billion declined to comment.
The question remains whether a snazzy new app is too little, too late for an industry that's been suffering for years—in large part thanks to Uber. Taxi fleet manager Gus Kodogiannis, of McGuinness Management Corporation (a.k.a. Greenpoint's taxi graveyard) is frustrated that the app has taken so long to develop. He hopes to have the app up and running by September 1st, but he's hemorrhaging drivers in the meantime.
"Most of my cars have the CMT system," he said last week. "These guys been telling me next month, next month, next month," he said. "Tell me when! We need it for my drivers."