In New York, many taxi drivers were looking into the idea of using the Uber app to collect and manage their fees. The app, which ran on iOS and Android (News - Alert) devices, would have given them a bit of a leg up thanks to its methods of not only helping cabbies collect fares, but even promoting the cabbies themselves. At least, it would have until David Yassky, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission's chairman, put a halt to the idea by telling cabbies the app was unusable thanks to a previous contract.
New York, according to Yassky, had already signed contracts with Creative Mobile Technologies and Verifone for credit card fare payments, which left the Uber app out in the cold. Considering that many taxi drivers had not only tried Uber, but had some very good things to say about it following a launch in New York, it's likely to make for some interesting legal issues to come.
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Uber not only allows users to pay by credit card, but it also allows users to find the closest cab to them that's using the Uber service. Better yet, Uber users don't have to flag down a taxi when they need one; they can simply send a web-based message, or text, to a cab and have one arrive at their current location. It's a fairly complete package for the passenger, and for those cab drivers using it, a great way to promote their existence without a lot of extra expense.
But while the current contracts forbid the use of Uber for collecting payments, there may still be room for Uber in the market. Uber's CEO, Travis Kalanick, said that there may yet be a way to use Uber within the contracts, by using it as a sort of matchmaking service for those who need a ride and those who have a ride, thus allowing the current payment processors to continue handling payments while Uber just makes the matchups. Sounds reasonable on the surface, but once again, the city's rulebook steps in, saying that there are rules against cabs accepting prearranged rides with electronic devices and refusing fares.
Rules, however, are often changed with much less difficulty than contracts are to break, so there may yet be some room in the pool for Uber. Giving taxi and limo drivers in New York a little extra help certainly couldn't hurt, neither the drivers themselves nor the city itself, which would have a better chance of collecting taxes on income made. Still, the whole matter will clearly take some time to resolve, so it's worth keeping an eye on, but the fact remains that apps are out to improve everyday life in several different segments. Whether or not they can be used, however, seems to depend on local laws.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman