Hailing a cab in the city is about to go high-tech, and these are the apps that are ushering in the future.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission last month approved a yearlong pilot program to let New Yorkers hail one of the city's more than 13,000 yellow cabs from their smartphones, the first time anything other than street hails will be allowed. Similar programs have existed in cities around the world and across the United States for years, but New York will get its first taste Feb. 15.
Most of the apps follow the same general format: The app will use your phone's GPS to find you or you enter an address; you then tell it to ping nearby cabbies; and then a driver in the area who gets the request will come pick you up. Most of the apps allow live GPS tracking of the driver, as well as automatic payments (in addition to cash).
The drivers need to have the cabbie version of the apps activated for them to work.
"It's the TLC's job to represent passengers, and when new technology comes along, we want to make sure it's available to them," TLC Commissioner David Yassky said when the program was approved. "New York City is known for embracing innovation, and we've certainly done that today."
Here are four of the apps that will launch on or close to Feb. 15 (pending TLC approval):
One of the biggest international cab-hailing apps, Hailo has enormous footprints in London, Toronto, Tokyo, Ireland and other locations. It was started by three London cabbies and three entrepreneurs, and launched in the United States in October in Boston, followed by Chicago in November.
Founder Jay Bregman said the city took a "huge step in the right direction" by allowing smartphone hails.
"The market is really inefficient; people find it difficult to get a taxi," he said. "We create efficiency. . . . We want to bring the tech we know to help solve some of the fundamental problems."
He added: "It's really just the natural evolution of a hail."
Price: Riders pay $1.50 per hail, more during rush hour
Features: After hailing a cab, you can watch the cab's progress throughout the city in real time; users can enable automatic payments so they can jump out of the cab when they reach their destination.
Uber has become the best-known name in the country for its car services, and has launched in dozens of cities including Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles. Its app has already been active for livery cabs in New York for some time, but faced trouble when it launched a hailing program for yellow cabs in September, which it shut down after about a month.
Still, Uber's reach is undeniable, and its already massive foothold in the city gives it a leg up on competitors.
"Only Uber has a proven record in New York City, successfully connecting drivers and riders thousands of times and delivering more money for drivers," spokesman Stu Loeser said.
Price: Unconfirmed, but in the ballpark of $1.50 to $2.50 per hail
Features: Has an existing infrastructure in the city with its livery cab service, so if no yellow cabs are available, users can easily get a sedan, town car or SUV; users can keep credit card info on file.
One of the oldest apps in the car-hailing space, TaxiMagic this month is marking its four-year anniversary. Some 25,000 cars in 51 U.S. cities are on its network, including San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles and more, making it one of the largest such apps in the country. It has long had its eye on the city, but only now has the chance to swoop in.
"This is just going to be a huge opportunity. New York is the most iconic taxi market in the entire world," said TaxiMagic spokesman Matt Carrington. "This has become such a hot start-up space with a lot of momentum; we're just really excited to be able to move in and show off our capabilities."
TaxiMagic already serves New York with its sister app SedanMagic, which, like Uber, gives it a built-in familiarity with the market.
Price: Unconfirmed, but about $1.50 to $2.50 per hail
Features: Users can submit requests to pre-schedule rides; live GPS taxi-tracking; users can keep credit card info on file.
A popular international service, GetTaxi is an Israeli-based cab-hailing app that operates in more than dozen cities worldwide, including Moscow, London and a handful of cities in Israel. After launching in February 2010, the app quickly grew, and now it used once every second during peak times.
GetTaxi initially expressed interest in New York City in June, when it submitted a proposal to the TLC to become the city's official taxi app. Though that ultimately fell through, the app's chief executive has said the app is ready to be one of the first apps to participate in the program.
Features: Estimated time of arrival and distance show in the app in real time; passengers can rate drivers and track previous rides; users can keep credit card info on file.