Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Keeping Cabbies Honest: The Free Market to the Rescue

NyPo reports:
It’s the oldest trick in a crooked cabby’s playbook — and it’s about to become obsolete, thanks to a new iPhone app.

Taxi Turvi keeps hacks honest by tracking their route with GPS technology, then checks it at the end of the journey to see if there was a shorter, cheaper way to go.

The free app — the brainchild of a former New York City resident whose Southern accent made her a frequent victim of the trick — was launched two weeks ago.

It works in any city that’s served by Google Maps.

To use it, riders simply press “start” at the beginning of their trip. Then, at the end of the ride, they hit “stop” — and the app displays the route that was taken in a red line.

The shortest route on the same map is overlaid in a blue line.

When The Post gave it a test run from 48th Street and Sixth Avenue to 50th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues, the blue and the red lines were on top of each other.

That means the cabby chose the quickest route.

The Post then asked the cab to go from 50th Street and Ninth Avenue to Madison Avenue and 41st Street in a deliberately roundabout way, via 30th Street.

For that trip, the app showed different red and blue routes: The driver should have gone east on 42nd Street instead of dipping down to 30th.

“We wanted to invent something that was helpful to the world,” said Audrey Overstreet, who created the app with her software-whiz husband. “The app will bring accountability to an industry that is notorious for duping unsuspecting tourists.”

Riders can also take their driver’s name and licensing info and post a review to Facebook.

Taxi Turvi is currently just for iPhones, but Overstreet said they are working to expand it to other smartphones.

Naturally, government hates the idea. From NyPo:
Taxi & Limousine Commissioner David Yassky warned the app might overstate the case for complaints as there might be other reasons why your cabby is taking a less than direct route. 
“It doesn’t appear to account for weather, traffic conditions, street closures or construction, things that taxi riders can count on a New York City-savvy taxi driver for,” Yassky said.

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