New Yorkers will soon be able to do one more thing on their smart phones: hail a cab. Today the Taxi and Limousine Commission passed, in a 7-0 vote, a one-year “e-hail” trial program to commence in February 2013. In addressing the positive decision, Commissioner David Yassky said: “We should not ignore technology that’s out there. This is not speculative, this is real.” Earlier this year, Uber attempted a controversial and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to expand its on-demand, private car service app to include taxis in New York.

Today’s vote will now allow companies such as Uber and its competitors Hailo, Lyft, GetTaxi, and Flywheel among others, to create e-hail and e-payment options for cabs. Following the vote, Uber said that it will restore its taxi service to New York imminently. App developers who wish to capitalize on the pilot program will have to abide by strict payment rules which clearly detail fare, fees, and tips.

According to the TLC, once the program goes into effect, riders will be able to connect with taxis within a half-mile radius in Manhattan from Battery Park to 59th St and within a 1.5-mile radius every where else using their phones. Participation in the program is not required but New York taxi driver and Hailo consultant Melissa Plaut said that the e-hail service would be hugely beneficial to cab drivers, who on average spend 40% of their time looking for fares. “When it comes to the conventional street hail, cab drivers are limited by their line of sight. The magic of the new taxi apps is that they allow cabdrivers to see around corners. They let passengers do the same, extending the reach of a taxi hail by several city blocks,” she wrote in the New York Times. It remains to be seen how drivers and passengers alike will take to the program, but we’re hoping this is the beginning of yet another digital success story.

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