A New York City court ruled today that people can use smartphone apps to digitally hail taxicabs, clearing the way for a new pilot program set to launch soon. The ruling is a move forward for proponents of the technological advance, and for the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC), which adopted the measure in December. Several car services and the Livery Roundtable (a union which represents nearly 20,000 livery drivers) sued the TLC in February, arguing that the program would violate city codes, and that discrimination based on location, age, and race, could ensue. The court threw out that lawsuit today, following a last-minute injunction against taxi-hailing apps in early May.
In New York City, taxicabs can only be hailed in person, while car services can be arranged in advance. This has caused contentious debates surrounding services such as Uber, which, in other cities, make possible the hailing of both black car services and the less costly taxicabs.
To further complicate matters, car service (i.e., non-medallion cars) hailing is only legal within the confines of Manhattan, with the outer boroughs (where cabs are fewer) served primarily by livery services available using smartphone applications and call-ahead services. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration, however, today won a ruling in Albany which would allow people in the outer boroughs to hail car service cars without pre-arrangement, changing the longstanding laws against the practice. Bloomberg's relationship with the TLC has been extremely strained, with the New York Post reporting that the mayor vowed to "destroy" their "fucking industry" in late May when asked about his plan to replace all taxicabs with the fuel efficient Nissan NV200, a measure which the TLC opposes.
Once instituted, the pilot program allowing smartphone hailing will be available to all New York City cab drivers, though participation will be optional. In a statement to Bloomberg, Mayor Bloomberg said, "In New York City in 2013, common sense and the free market say that you should be able to use your smartphone to get a cab, and that’s why we created a pilot program to allow users to do just that."