Taxi-hailing apps help potential passengers locate a ride in real time. They simply put their location into an app, which is then sent to designated cars nearby. The first to arrive on the scene gets to pick up the customer. In many locations, users can also pay for their ride using the app, but New Yorkers currently have to pay for their ride in the traditional manner, either with cash or credit card in the car.
Ashwini Chahabra, deputy commissioner of policy and programs at the New York Taxi & Limousine Commission, said Wednesday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference here that payment methods should expand within the next couple months, enabling people to book and pay for a ride all using their phone.
Taxi-hailing apps, such as Uber, received approval to operate in New York only a few days ago. Uber on Tuesday became the first such app to return to the streets. Chahabra said Uber rival Hailo also will have approval "within hours or a day."
Companies like Uber and Hailo have been working to bring taxi apps to New York over the past year but faced many setbacks early on. Uber launched support for taxi service in New York last September. But after just one month, the company pulled out due to obstacles and roadblocks by groups opposed to the service. Last week, a New York judge gave Uber and other taxi-hailing apps approval to operate in the city.
While New Yorkers can now hail a cab with their smartphones, ride-sharing apps are still being debated. Sunil Paul, CEO of ride-sharing app maker Sidecar, argued Wednesday during the TechCrunch conference that such technology should be allowed in New York. He said it's not already available because the Taxi & Limousine Commission "protects the taxi industry."
But Chahabra said the commission is not opposed to ride sharing per se but is against ride sharing that acts as taxi service without proper background checks, permits, and other regulations.
"There probably is a place where ride sharing can operate in New York," but it has to be in a specific way, Chahabra said.
Updated at 7:50 a.m. PT with additional information and background.