One of the great advantages of the digital age is the way in which it has transformed our economy. Once upon a time we had to rely on flyers and yard sales to get rid of our unwanted wares. The creation of sites like E-Bay and Craigslist not only allow us to conduct such activities online – now we can sell those wares all over the country.
Several entrepreneurs brought – or rather tried to bring – similar innovation to taxi services, with varying degrees of success. Companies like Uber, Lyft, ZimRide, and Sidecar all offer car-sharing services, but continuously ran into problems with larger municipalities who license and regulate traditional taxi services within their borders. And while it sometimes appears as though cities like New York and San Francisco might be finally willing to come into the twenty-first century, however slowly, other challenges lie on the horizon: for example, a proposal in fifteen cities to ban GPS metering in favor of physical metering which requires significant upgrades (and costs) to a vehicle.
Of course, we like to think that technology, innovation, and common sense will win out in the end, and it usually does. There are also logistical problems involved for transportation regulators. First, there’s almost nothing to stop tech-savvy commuters from using such services without a particular city’s commission, but more importantly, how far can such regulations go? If a city tries to outlaw taxi apps, can they do the same for carpool apps? What about apps like StearClear, whose noble goal is to provide transportation to people who aren’t sober enough to do so themselves?
The fact of the matter is that traditional, regulated, yellow-cab type services would benefit at least as much from taxi apps as consumers would. On the average, New York Taxi drivers spend about forty percent of their time looking for fares, which could be radically reduced were they to make better use of mobile technology.