NYC cabbies threaten September strike over GPS

With the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission's October 1 compliance date for installation of GPS-equipped information and payment systems in New York's 13,000 taxis, a driver's advocacy group is gearing up to strike in protest. The source of the controversy is the screen above. The system provides riders with useful info like news and weather, as well as credit card payment functionality and the ability to watch the route the taxi is taking to its destination in real-time. We tried it out during the New York Auto show and found it to be pretty cool and easy-to-use. For tourists, it's a nice setup. The only negative observation our driver made when we asked him his opinion of it was that the system didn't take well to fast inputs when in payment mode. Slower, deliberate taps on the touchscreen worked better.

According to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a non-union group representing drivers' interests, the GPS-based systems are a bad thing, and it claims that its 8,400 members will go on strike September 1 if the TLC doesn't put the kibosh on its fleetwide GPS plan. The organization claims that the systems overreach and are an invasion of drivers' privacy -- a sort of "Big Brother" that'll be used to track cabbies whereabouts at all times. The TLC notes that there are several benefits to drivers in addition to the added functionality it gives riders. Pick-ups and drop-offs are automatically recorded, eliminating the pencil-and-paper system used up until now. Also, drivers will be able to receive real-time traffic info and will gain a measure of protection against the criminals who sometimes prey upon taxi drivers. The GPS should help police track down cars in distress and nab the perpetrators in these situations. Lastly, the TLC says that drivers in cars equipped with the systems already make 18% more in tips. That tidbit has not been part the NYTWA's talking points. According to the TLC, most operators (73%) have already chosen a system ahead of the 10/1 date, anyway. Still, it looks like a showdown between the the TLC and Taxi Workers Alliance is imminent, as the TLC is very unlikely to back down. Whether or not the dustup will actually amount to anything significant remains to be seen.

[Sources: NY1, Newsday via Engadget]

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