It's official: approved app-makers can legally connect cab drivers with passengers in New York City. And by July, they'll be able to process payments for NYC's iconic yellow taxicabs.
Just days after New York City announced it would allow Uber's app to be used to hail yellow cabs, a deputy commissioner of the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission said that additional taxi-hailing apps are likely to be approved. What's more important: Taxi passengers who've electronically hailed their rides will be able to pay through their smartphones.
“In 60 days you'll be able to hail and pay for your ride with your smartphone,” said Ashwini Chhabra, deputy commissioner of policy and planning for the TLC.
The city's initial announcement this week said that Uber, a ride-hailing app that already allowed smartphone users to hail and pay for rides in private sedans, electric vehicles, and SUVs, was the only application approved for NYC taxi e-hail. Uber's taxi-hailing capability launched Tuesday in New York. Chhabra announced Wednesday that Hailo--whose CEO sat on a panel alongside Chaabra at the Disrupt NYC conference--is currently under review by the TLC, and would likely be approved within hours ("days, at most," he said).
“In a couple hours we will be part of the taxi industry,” said Hailo founder and CEO Jay Bregman.
Indeed, by late Wednesday afternoon, the TLC approved Hailo as a participant in its e-hail pilot program.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday in a statement: "Adding safe and regulated e-hail service is the latest in our administration’s efforts to use innovative technology to improve taxi service."
While both Bregman and Chhabra expressed Wednesday their feeling that the e-payment agreement between ride-hailing companies and the city is “historic news,” no one on stage--especially Sunil Paul, the founder of SideCar, which just days ago had a private driver's car impounded in New York City--seemed proud of how lengthy and fraught the approval process has been.
“We shouldn't stand up here and take any bows,” Chhabra said, noting that Uber is a three-year-old company now, and Hailo has been operational in London since 2011. Hailo, which has more than $50 million in venture capital, already operates in five major cities. New York City isn't exactly used to being a late-adopter of technology. “The fact that it's 2013 and you can finally e-hail a taxi is not something to be proud of.”
Uber briefly tested yellow cab e-hailing in New York City last year, before having its efforts shut down, and Hailo has been recruiting a network of drivers for months. After a series of setbacks and false starts for e-hailing over the past two years, the latest pause button was a lawsuit in February by groups of black-sedan and limo companies saying e-hail for taxis threatened the livery cab business. A judge dismissed that suit this week.
“I'll be the first regulator to stand up here and say whatever the entrepreneurs and disruptors are doing you are going to be moving faster and farther than the bureaucrats and legislators,” Chhabra said.
Bregman added: "There is this dance we have to do together, but [start-ups and governments] do have to work together."
This article was updated at 4:55 p.m. May 1, 2013, to reflect the TLC's approval of Hailo to operate in New York City.