Now that New York County Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit from the livery cab industry that was holding up the city's pilot program, e-hailing is no longer just the province of the early-adopting elite willing to swallow Uber's hefty fees and surging prices for a little black car convenience.
Soon, regular New Yorkers will know the frictionless joy, the goddam Randian right of hailing a yellow cab on their smartphone instead of flailing their hand about on the street corner like some analog plebe. Old ladies and flip-phoners standing on the curb confused as to why taxis are passing them by? Casualties of disruption.
Hailo and Uber are the two biggest and most heavily-funded startups vying for a chance to get on New Yorkers' homescreens. (Hailo has $50.6 million to Uber's $49.5 million.) And their rivalry is pretty fierce. In fact, last September, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick pretty much admitted one of the reasons he tried breaking into the market before the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) gave its approval is because Hailo was planning to do the same.
This week, it's Hailo that's playing fast-and-loose with the rules.
Local users who signed up to be a "founding passenger" with Hailo, received this email today offering a free, beta version of the service for yellow cabs. Hailo has 5,000 drivers registered with the service, so there's a better chance users will actually be able to test it out than when Uber tried last fall. Once the pilot program begins, Hailo plans on offering a scant 99 cent fee per ride.
There's just one thing, though. The rules of the pilot program don't say anything about letting apps "beta test" their service. We've reached out to the TLC and will update the post as soon as we hear back. Get it while you can?
Update: Dang that was fast! Moments after publishing, we heard from the TLC that Uber is the only approved app for the pilot program. According to a TLC spokesperson, even though the though the e-hail pilot is officially in place, "it appears that Hail-O is operating outside of it. We are communicating firmly to taxi drivers that they may not use unapproved e-hail apps."
TLC APPROVES FIRST E-HAIL APP
PROVIDER FOR SERVICE IN NYC TAXICABS
TLC-Licensed Medallion Taxicab Drivers
May Participate in Pilot Program
The New York State Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) may proceed with the e-hail pilot program, which was approved at the TLC’s December 13, 2012 Commission meeting.
Today, the TLC approved the first pilot participant in this pilot program: Uber Technologies, Inc.
This 12-month pilot program, which commences today, will allow the TLC to test and evaluate smartphone e-hail apps that can be used to request medallion taxicab service.
Only licensed medallion taxi drivers in licensed medallion taxicabs may use this app (or any subsequently-named e-hail apps) in compliance with the e-hail pilot resolution, which can be found on the TLC website.
As additional pilot participants are named, TLC will issue additional industry notices. A current list of approved e-hail pilot participants can be found at http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/….
Update: Both Kalanick and TLC chairman David Yassky have issued statements about Uber's approval. "So, we made a little bit of history late this afternoon," an agency spokesperson emailed, along with Yassky's statement (below):
“Thanks to the NYS Supreme Court’s ruling this week, we will be able to see e-hail services made available to the riding public through a one-year pilot program that officially begins today. The first provider to be approved is Uber Technologies, Inc. There are several other companies in various stages of our approval process with others sure to join them, and we are excited about the prospect of seeing the universe of choices expand. The passengers have spoken and the Bloomberg administration listened…people want the opportunity to decide whether new technology can improve their taxi experience, and today, that option is available to them.”
Meanwhile, Kalanick kept it short and sweet:
"We couldn't be happier to be the first and only e-hail app that has approval to operate in New York City — UberTAXI will be lighting up yellow cabs across New York City momentarily."
To contact the author of this post, email email@example.com.