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Uber gets go-ahead for New York City e-hail service


Talk about magical and revolutionary: the manual and unpredictable task of hailing a taxi is being completely overturned by mobile devices. In many American cities, app vendors like Uber are disrupting the livery and taxi business by providing quick and predictable service at the tap of a button.

The roster of cities with e-hailing service is missing a major entry, however; the Big Apple. With the largest US fleet of yellow taxis plus some arcane service regulations, New York's market is a huge prize for the app vendor that establishes early dominance. Several rounds of testing and potential rule changes later, the city is ready to start piloting e-hail services at last.

Valleywag reports that the legal challenges to NYC e-hails have been cleared, and Uber is the first out of the gate. The popular service is now approved to provide e-hail service during the 12-month pilot program on New York streets. Unlike some other cities where Uber provides coverage, payment to taxi drivers is not yet included in the service; you have to pay the driver directly. (Uber's other classes of service, covering livery cars, "black cars" and SUVs, all include integrated payment.)

Of course, Uber's not the only app vendor aiming at the country's biggest taxi fleet. Competitors like iTaxi, Taxi Magic and Hailo all would like a piece of the pie. Competing service Hailo actually sent out a beta e-hail announcement to potential users of its service in New York, but there's a slight hitch: the TLC's pilot has no provision for beta or soft launches. Either you're approved or you're not, and right now Uber is; Hailo is not.

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