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In A Win For E-Hail Services, Judge Clears The Way For Mobile Taxi Apps To Launch In NYC

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New York City is one step closer to having regulator-approved e-hail apps, thanks to the end of litigation against the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission. That’s because a judge today dismissed a controversial lawsuit filed by the black car industry against the regulator.

The lawsuit, which was designed to block the TLC from starting a trial of mobile apps that would allow users to hail a cab electronically, claimed that the pilot program would have violated several local ordinances. It also claimed that the TLC’s program would have blurred the lines between cabs, which users typically hail on the street, and for-hire vehicles, which they call ahead to schedule a ride. But the judge in the case, Justice Carol Huff, rejected those claims and dismissed the case.

The ruling was a victory for the TLC and for the companies that have planned to be a part of the e-hail trial. The program was expected to launch in February, but was delayed due to the lawsuit filed by the black car lobby. Without the litigation hanging over it, the TLC is once again free to move on with the application and approval process.

That said, not every e-hail app will qualify. Participants in the trial are expected to integrate with the taxi’s existing meter and payment system, and be approved by the NY TLC before they begin operating. But it’s something that e-hail companies such as Hailo, Taxi Magic and Flywheel say they are prepared to do.

Hailo CEO Jay Bregman told me by phone that his company has thousands of drivers trained and ready to go, and the company is just waiting for the TLC to give it the green light to launch. But it’s not clear how long it will be before companies that have applied and had their apps approved will get the go-ahead to begin rolling out services in New York City.

Another company that may participate in the trial is Uber, which previously had tried to launch an unsanctioned version of its own UberTAXI service in New York, long before the TLC announced the trial. But Uber ultimately shut down its own taxi trial, in part because the TLC at the time “put up obstacles and roadblocks” to its trial. For what it’s worth, a representative for Uber said the company had submitted an application and received the blueprint schematics for compliance with the TLC’s program.

With the launch of New York’s e-hail trial seemingly imminent, it’s probably as good a time as any to mention that we’ll be discussing all these issues next week at Disrupt NY 2013, where we’ll have representatives from the TLC, Hailo, and ride-sharing startup SideCar on a panel about urban transportation. This’ll give us one more thing to talk about.

Photo Credit: Vincent_AF via Compfight cc