Detailed by the Detroit Free Press earlier this week, a mobile application called ZabKab allows New York City residents and visitors to hail a cab by simply tapping a button that broadcasts their physical location. When a pedestrian launches the ZabKab application on an iOS or Android smartphone, they press the large yellow “hail” button on the screen and a signal is sent out to cab drivers within a four to five block radius. In addition to broadcasting a GPS location of the smartphone, the pedestrian can also let the driver know how many people will be riding in the cab and request a wheelchair-accessible taxi if needed. The user can watch the map on the screen and view the real-time locations of all the cabs in the area. The yellow cab icon indicates that a taxi is empty and the gray cab icon indicates that the taxi is currently being used.
The application is particularly noteworthy as it’s been approved by the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) and the organization is encouraging drivers to try it out. Ideal for a taxi driver, this allows them to get a good idea of the direction to head for their next fare. However, drivers aren’t allowed to communicate with the pedestrian in order to alert them that the cab is incoming.
Drivers also have to bring the car to a complete stop before using a mobile device according to the rules of the TLC. In addition, the ZabKab application has been specifically designed to stop working if it detects the driver traveling faster than 5 miles per hour. This is also the method used for removing passengers from the map after they have been picked up by a cab.
When asked about the driver regulations in an interview with an NBC affiliate in New York, ZabKab co-founder Martin Keikel stated “When they’re pulling over to drop a passenger off they have a little time, because the passenger is paying, and this is a good time for them to look at their mobile device. And now when they zoom off, they have an idea where that passenger might be, which could be just around the corner.”
According to the NY Daily News, Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky stated “We’re pleased that the taxi world continues to see rapid technological innovations. We will summons any driver caught using a smartphone while driving.”
In addition to launching ZabKab with 1,000 registered taxi drivers in New York, the company is also promoting use of the application with doormen around the city. This system would basically allow a doorman to start signaling a cab as a resident of the building is heading downstairs to street level.
According to the TLC, the organization is also planning on releasing a mobile application that will allow passengers to submit payment for a cab ride without having to reach for a wallet. The application could also include similar feature to the ZabKab app. In the meantime, it’s free for pedestrians to download and use the ZabKab application. Drivers are being offered a sixty day trial, but will eventually be required to pay a fee to continue using the application. While ZabKab has only officially been released in the NYC market, it’s likely that it could gain popularity in other cities around the United States.