Fast Company

New York Wants to Make Taxis Into iPhones

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New York wants to reinvent its taxis. The metropolis just put out an all-points-bulletin to tech companies, and the general public, seeking new gizmos and innovations that would improve the cab riding experience. The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) is open to all ideas, but top priority has been given to tech that can create a number of new features:

  • Cell phone-blocking technology (for drivers while engaged, but not passengers!)
  • Wayfinding (knowing location, finding best routes)
  • Multiple metered rate of fare and split-fare capabilities
  • Radio frequency identification (RFID) readers or biometrics to ensure use by authorized drivers
  • Better, more informative receipts with driver information, easier-to-read/larger print, coupons, advertising, promotions, and receipts delivered electronically to an email address
  • Driver debit card (income deposited directly into drivers' bank accounts) linked to benefits, i.e. discounts on car washes, fuel, restaurants, etc.
  • Multiple languages
  • Music and music video menu
  • Internet or Wi-Fi capability (check e-mail, surf Web, shop, etc.)
  • Real-time interactivity with TLC to facilitate surveys, complaints, compliments

Submissions for ideas are due by June 15.

Sounds sweet right? And then we realized: The cheapest way to to make any of these initiatives happen would simply involve designing apps for the iPhone or Android. Think about it: RFID, multiple meters, wayfinding, multiple languages, Internet, interactivity with TLC. All of those you could do in a suite of apps. For the rest? Create a plug in interface for the driver's phone, that would give the passenger access to a tailored suite of apps. You could even throw in speedometers--hey cabbie slow down!--friend trackers, Facebook, Twitter, and a bunch of games featuring blinking gems. 

What do you guys think? Is there an easier way to pull all this stuff off? And which features would you love to see in a cab?

[Via C-Net; image by TMAB2003]

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4 Comments

  • Cliff Kuang

    @Crash---Another good point. But one thing I will say is that technology is often cheaper (and more consistent) that good training. Here's one case where I'd argue for the former.

  • Crash Gregg

    I agree with you Cliff. Maybe NYC should spend their money on a cabbie training program. The rickshaw drivers here take a decent class on downtown history and are very good ambassadors for their riders. Needless to say, our city is much smaller than NYC and therefore a lot less to learn, plus we have fewer drivers with less turnover) but still it couldn't hurt.

  • Cliff Kuang

    @Crash---You make a good point, and to some extent, a good cabbie would be the answer to myriad problems. But when's the last time you had a good cabbie? I'd say my ratio of spotty cabbie to good cabbie is maybe 1:5. In my experience, most can't even make their way into Brooklyn without using a map or GPS, (the city's most populous borough) much less split a tab four ways.

  • Crash Gregg

    Do we have to be plugged in 24-7 for a 20-minute cab ride? How about looking out the window for a change and see what's outside instead of what's on the internet. Good cabbies know to learn about their surroundings and to make recommendations. Being an informed and helpful driver will usually result in a better tip (so the theory goes). Maybe we need more human interaction and more people living in reality instead of living in a private virtual world of 1s and 0s? Technology is a great thing as are wayfinding systems and staying connected, but when is it enough and at what point is it time to look out instead of down...