On Friday, New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission approved the savvy, San Francisco-based Uber as the first app New Yorkers can use to hail yellow medallion taxi cabs. After nearly a year of delays, the announcement marks the start of a year-long pilot program, during which the TLC will be able to experiment with different “e-hail” providers.
Since 2010, legions of drunk, lost, or tightly scheduled San Franciscans have been using Uber to hail luxury cabs without standing in the middle of the street and trying to flag them down. The app operates like a map, showing users which cabs that have signed up for the service are closest to them. From there, it only takes a few finger swipes to arrange for one of those cabs to come pick a traveler up.
Last week, Uber won a lawsuit filed by New York’s black car and livery lobby. The suit claimed that implementation of the app would discriminate against the elderly who lack smartphones, among six other causes of action, but the Manhattan judge ultimately denied all of them. The decision arrived seven months after New York City officials first started questioning the app’s impact–last September, Councilman James Vacca, City Council transportation committee chairman, told the New York Times he was concerned the app would create a “two-tiered taxi system,” between those who own smartphones and those who don’t.
Our guess is that there are other forms of inequity in New York City that are probably more pressing than the smartphone/phone-phone divide. Still, Uber has run up against the industry establishment in its hometown, too–class-action lawsuits have been filed in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco over the app’s fare protocol and legality.
Last year, Uber’s lawyer, John Quinn, called the S.F. lawsuit bollocks. “Uber complies with all laws and regulations applicable to its business. Any claim to the contrary is baseless and motivated by those who seek to deprive the public of this safe and convenient transportation option,” Quinn said in a statement.
“Uber would rather compete for business on the streets of San Francisco than in the courtroom, but Uber will defend these claims in court and is confident of the outcome,” he said.