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Uber shuts down New York City taxi beta, may see light at the end of the (Lincoln) tunnel in February (update: TLC responds)

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
October 16, 2012
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Uber has been having a tough time getting a foothold in New York City, and it's temporarily withdrawing the UberTaxi service it had in beta. The withdrawal isn't entirely for the reasons you'd expect, however. While Uber claims to have been getting grief from the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission for offering a competing (if technically legal) service through its smartphone apps, the program's end was due to demand rather than any kind of outright ban -- the Commission's pressure reportedly kept Uber from matching interest with enough yellow cabs. Black car service is still on for those who don't mind the classic ride. Should that uncomfortable balance not be quite good enough, Mayor Bloomberg is promising a truce come February, when a shift in contracts will let New York change the rules and hopefully improve the market for taxi alternatives.

Update: TLC Commissioner David Yassky has weighed in with both an elaboration and claims that the Commission has been in favor of newer technology for awhile. He notes that the contracts expiring in February relate to exclusive payment arrangements with Creative Mobile Technologies and VeriFone, and that apps of all kinds (Uber's included) can compete for attention at that point. His full statement:

"In recent months, as e-hail apps have emerged, TLC has undertaken serious diligence and is moving toward rule changes that will open the market to app developers and other innovators. Those changes cannot legally take place until our existing exclusive contracts expire in February. We are committed to making it as easy as possible to get a safe, legal ride in a New York City taxi, and are excited to see how emerging technology can improve that process. Our taxis have always been on the cutting edge of technological innovation, from GPS systems to credit card readers."

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