Catching a cab in midtown Manhattan at 4:30 on a weekday afternoon is the closest most New Yorkers will ever get to hunting. You have to know the patterns of your prey: its favorite haunts, its preferred routes, its tendency to vanish when your need is most acute (during rainstorms, for example). You have to outwit all the cab-poachers lurking in the shadows.
Yesterday, however, New York City emerged from the hunter-gatherer cab era. The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission voted 7-0 (with two abstentions) to allow people to find, hail, and pay for taxis using smartphones. So-called “e-hailing” is already hugely popular in San Francisco, London, Chicago, Dublin, and other cities, where services such as Uber, Hailo, GetTaxi, and Flywheel are competing to sign up both cab users and drivers. Users love the convenience of being able to scan for nearby cabs and then summon one with a touchscreen tap. Cabdrivers are able to spend less time driving around looking for fares and more time carrying paying customers.