by Sol Hess
In a matter of months, New Yorkers riding in taxicabs will have more to look at than the view. The constant media buzz of modern life - television programs, sports scores, advertisements - will invade the back of cabs starting in October, the result of a new city regulation requiring that all yellow cabs be equipped with global positioning systems and video screens.
The city Taxi and Limousine Commission says it simply wants to make cab rides safer and more enjoyable for passengers. But the drivers of the city's 13,000 yellow cabs have protested, arguing that the new technology will cost them money and impinge on their privacy.WHAT THE SYSTEM WILL DO
Through the GPS system, taxi passengers will be able to know where they are at any moment. For New Yorkers who never want to be out of touch, the monitors and tracking system will make a cab ride -- 13 minutes on average -- more enjoyable. Passengers will be able to follow sports scores, get up-to-the-minute news, weather and more. (Those who want some peace and quiet will be able to turn off the monitors.) The driver will also notified of traffic congestion in the area and of large parties or concerts that are ending – and could be fertile ground for finding fare-paying customers. With the new system, passengers can pay their fares using credit or debit cards.
Taxi and limousine commissioner Matthew Daus has called the tracking and the monitors “nothing short of revolutionary and evolutionary for the taxi industry" and has written that the technology “will benefit both drivers and customers.” The commission believes it will make it easier for tourists, who may not want to carry much cash, to use cabs. And the system believes such high-tech taxis will enhance New York’s image as the "city of the world.”
But cab drivers are not convinced. They worry that the tracking system will enable the police department and traffic agents to follow the cabs and prosecute drivers for violating traffic laws. “For myself, I am not against it, but I can see my fellow drivers being angry for being dictated to sacrifice for other people's extra entertainment," said one driver, Ibrahim Jane.