NYC Taxis Feature New Technologies

An interesting article found its way into inbox this morning. The article was written by Sean, who is blogging “From the Digital Frontier” on MediaPost.

NYC Taxi He was late the other day and took a cab to ride to work. What he encountered when he got in the cab was a small entertainment system displaying news, weather and clips.
How neat, I though … but then I took a closer look at the photo he took of the system’s screen.

On the top of the screen you can see a small “MAP” button on the interface. So I wonder what happens when you press that button.
A search led me to the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) Website where I found some more information. There are four different systems that are currently in beta testing. All systems are required by the TLC to feature the following:

  • Trip sheet automation using vehicle locator technology – which may also be linked to a central system to support fleet owners with managing their vehicles and the end-of-shift settlements with the cabbies. Plus it offers real-time location data for each vehicle (sounds like crying for a Google Maps mash-up to me).
  • A driver information monitor – it displays text messages when the vehicle is stopped. These provide updates to drivers to help avoid traffic congestions, return lost property, or to make them aware of fare opportunities e.g. large events.
  • A passenger information monitor – this is the screen Sean took a photo off. It provides information and entertainment, facilitates credit and debit card payment of the fare, and it displays a map with the taxicab’s current location.

So next I was wondering which of the four systems tested might make the best use of providing location based information to the taxis’ passengers. Here is a quick overview of the four systems.

One system is provided by VeriFone, better know for card payment terminals at store checkouts or handheld devices used in restaurant. A video (WMF, 2MB) of their passenger facing device shows how the payment process works, not more. But on the VeriFone product page a paragraph briefly explains the following feature:
“Real-Time Automated Vehicle Location: Links directly to trip log information and the ability to locate vehicles in real-time. Also supports in-vehicle navigation and dispatch queuing activities.”

Another system in testing is made by Creative Mobile Technologies (CMT). While they seem to have focused more on the back-end integration for improved fleet management, their consumer facing interface offers two map views to the passenger. One view is a “street level” view identifying surrounding streets and the other is a “borough level” view where passengers can see more of an overview of their journey. Colored dots indicate the starting point, route traveled and current location.
Really unique is their information and entertainment offering which is provided by NBC’s NY10 “New York Taxi Entertainment Network” – but content doesn’t seem to be directly tied to the taxi’s location. However, due to the local and specially compiled content the advertising opportunities can be a good deal more targeted. You can read more about the NBC/CMT deal on New York Taxi News.

PIM by DDDigital Dispatch is not really providing a wealth of information about their SmartCab solution, but at least has a demo of their interface online. Unfortunately it is not fully functional, but you get the idea. Again, I can’t see any relation between location and content displayed on the passenger’s screen.

Last but not least, there is TaxiTech. Hidden in the copy on the various pages of their website, there is a glimpse of the future:
” Soon passengers will also be able to use the interactive map to find locations of interest, such as restaurants, cafes, movie theaters, ATM machines, tourist attractions and more.”

Given the small amount of information I was able to pull together I’d be really grateful for any New Yorker encountering one of these new devices to provide some additional insights. And of course anyone is invited to share thoughts!

(Photo of NYC taxi at full speed courtesy of TommyBass.)

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