Thursday, May 10, 2007

Reaction in the face of change

Taxi rides in NYC going high-tech
The monitors, already in 200 cabs as an experiment, allow riders to pay by credit card, map out where the cab is going and find information about restaurants and bars.

Taxi officials say the monitors will help passengers make the most of the 13 minutes they spend on an average ride in the city. But many drivers have decried the cost — up to $7,400 for equipment and fees over three years — and say the technology will let taxi owners and officials check up on them.

"I cannot afford the computer. What is going to happen to me?" driver Oscar Luzzi said at Thursday's commission meeting.


The global positioning system in the technology, from Englewood, N.J.-based TaxiTech, automates required record-keeping. It could help with lost items, as well: If a customer reports losing a wallet, the taxi commission could send alerts to drivers in the neighborhood where the customer was dropped off to be on the lookout.

Objecting drivers have raised concerns about the costs of the technology, credit-card fees and potential working time lost if it needs repair. Some worry that the global-positioning system will be used to track their movements, although the taxi commission says it will record only the pickup and drop-off points and fare, which drivers already are required to log.

"It's trampling on our constitutional rights, and it will cut deeply into our income," said Bill Lindauer of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a drivers' advocacy group with more than 7,000 members.
There may be legitimate problems with the gps-credit card computer systems. That said, the way these things usually go, I expect that within five years no one will be able to imagine getting into a taxi without one of these systems.

Next time I'm in NYC, I'll probably take a taxi just to try out the system.