While I get into the city on a semi-regular basis, I don't usually take a cab. I prefer to walk or take the subway, as doing so is usually a.) easier and b.) less expensive. Nothing's worse than sitting in the back seat of a cab, stuck in traffic, watching the meter run. Sometimes, however, you can't beat a taxi. Such as when you're running late. And it's rainy. And cold. And one happens to dump a passenger off right next to you, as if God knew you needed to stop hoofing it and get in an automobile for the rest of your journey.

That's what happened last night.

I stood poised to take over a cab as its passengers completed their transaction with a flurry of activity, all of which involved a large LCD screen mounted to the divider (above). When I got in, the screen refreshed, revealing itself to be a touch-activated information center geared towards tourists called eTaxi. It provides the standard stuff like weather and points of interest, and has advertising lined up, web-style. According to a NY Post article on the system published back in January, it uses GPS to display ads based on the cab's location. It also acts as a payment interface for customers who want to use a credit card. My driver, Freddy, explained to me that the system's being piloted in 200 cabs in the city right now, and if deemed successful, it'll see a wide rollout soon thereafter. Cars that run the system appear to have two meters installed (at least that was the case with the one I was in) -- one "traditional," with the familiar red numbers, and another that features a monochrome LCD display that's used for the credit card payments.

The one complaint some riders have, said Freddy, is that the system is time-consuming to use, particularly when users operate the touchscreen interface when it comes time to pay. Apparently, it doesn't take well to faster inputs, and users are often forced to re-enter info at a slower, more deliberate pace. That's tough when you're in a rush to jump out of the cab and get to where you need to be. Granted, there's a solution to that problem which always works: pay cash.


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