Transit trade groups pulled out the race card and managed to block smartphone taxi “e-hailing” a day after they were cleared to pilot in New York City. Associate Justice Helen E. Freedman issued an emergency injunction against smartphone taxi app companies Hailo and Uber, after hearing arguments from the several car service groups alleging that smartphones permit drivers to discriminate against passengers based on race, name, age and location.
“We’re disappointed that there is a further delay in implementing the e-hail pilot program. It’s unfortunate that taxi riders will not be able to continue to test this innovative tool for hailing taxis,” wrote Senior Counsel in NYC Law Department, Michelle Goldberg-Cahn, in a statement.
On May 1st, hand waving-averse New Yorkers were supposed to be able to summon and track taxis from their mobile phones, though they weren’t allowed to pay through the application and the pilot was only available in certain parts of the city and call taxis within a certain radius of the passenger.
This latest legal injunction is just the low point in a roller coaster between smartphone car service apps, who have been cleared and blocked over and over again, as taxi groups fight tech startups for control over the lucrative transportation industry.
It is wholly ironic that taxi organizations allege that smartphone applications are a threat to equality. For years, news organizations have replicated the abject racism that occurs between people of color and drivers.
“At night they will slow down to pick me up and realize that I’m a person of color then suddenly flip the switch; they’re out of service and will drive on. And I’ve seen it as far as they will go to the next block and pick someone else up within clear sight,” said Briscoe Savoy, a resident of Brooklyn who participated in an ABC experiment.
Indeed, one black D.C. resident defended Uber against regulators back when the state had threatened to raise prices on the smartphone black car service. “That’s why I’m dismayed by the proposed regulations that could potentially put Uber out of business,” wrote Clinton Yates, for the Washington Post. “It would be a step backward for those of us who are willing to pay more money for a respectable transaction rather than take our chances on the street and be degraded in the process.”
The injunction is part of an ongoing court battle. We will update readers as the story unfolds.