Riding in a yellow taxi used to be a miserable experience, which helps explain why Uber and Lyft were able to swoop in and so thoroughly disrupt the industry. Fed up with unreliable and dirty taxi rides, passengers migrated en masse to ride-hail apps that promised cleaner rides, friendlier drivers, and seamless payments. Taxi operators tried to stave off the bleeding by rolling out their own apps — but most were just pale copies of Uber. Now, the traditional taxi industry is launching a new counter-offensive against the ride-hail menace: gadgets.
Starting this year and ramping up in 2017, Verifone Systems — one of the largest payment processing companies in the world — will install new technology in tens of thousands of cabs nationwide, in a massive effort to improve the cab-riding experience for not only riders, but drivers as well. Verifone owns taxi meters, credit card machines, and entertainment systems in dozens of markets in the US, including New York City, where it controls around half of the city’s fleet of yellow and green cabs.
The experience of riding in a yellow taxi is about to get high-tech. Gone are the bulky touchscreen TVs blaring clips from Good Morning America and the analog meters with their retro-red numerical displays. (Regulators in New York City announced last year its plan to phase out the annoying Taxi TVs.) By next year, many of TVs will be replaced with sleek, 10-inch touchscreen tablets with third-party app support. That means riders will soon have the option of streaming Spotify or booking a reservation with Open Table during their cab rides.
There will be a USB charger, because we live in an era when our smartphones always need charging, and Wi-Fi, because data plans are expensive. Credit card readers will also accept mobile payment options like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. (Four years ago, Verifone tried its hand at mobile payments with its Square-like Sail card reader, only to pull out of the market months later.)